The amount of money spent on online advertising is rising all the time. In the UK alone it reached over £7 billion in 2014.

Which leads some practitioners, such as the Internet Advertising Bureau’s director of marketing Sophia Amin, to claim that the future of all advertising will be digital.

But is that true? We don’t think so.

On the one hand, it’s clear that traditional advertising still works extremely well – when there’s a healthy medium in which it can be placed. TV and outdoor in particular are thriving and are still demonstrably increasing sales. As Mark Twain might have put it, reports of advertising’s death have been highly exaggerated.

On the other hand, the digital advocates are combining ‘classified’ and ‘display’ advertising in their figures, which leads to a great deal of (possibly deliberate) confusion.

As far as figures are available, it seems that some 77% of digital adspend goes to what we would term classified advertising (and most of that to Google PPC campaigns). But remember that classified advertising fulfils an existing need. It cannot create demand, and has virtually no effect on how you are perceived.

“Online display ads simply aren’t very effective”

Only 23% of online spend can be termed display advertising – and that includes the crappy little ads on Facebook that no-one ever clicks on.

In other words, considerably fewer companies are putting their money into online display ads than the IAB would have you believe; and what’s more, those who do are finding that the cost of that media is declining.

Online display ads simply aren’t very effective.

Maybe people were blinded by the hype: the promises of precision targeting and interactivity.

We think it should have been obvious from the start.


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