When you're operating in a market that's enjoying a 76 per cent year-on-year growth rate, it's hard not to feel like you're in the right place. But when your sector still accounts for only 2-3 per cent of overall marketing spend, it is hardly time to rest on your laurels. According to the IPA's most recent Bellwether Report (for the third quarter of 2004), a quarter of advertisers continue to invest no money whatsoever into online and almost another quarter again invest less than 1 per cent of their marketing budgets.
It's therefore both important and pleasing to report that 2004 was not just a year of extraordinary business growth, but also one in which our industry began to address some of the key concerns of hesitant mainstream advertisers.
We now have a formal procedure in place to work towards standard audience-measurement metrics - something the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the IPA have labelled the Gold Standard. For advertisers who are used to the conventions of established media such as TV, this is a critical issue. And it is from these clients - whose targets come in terms of brand impact rather than directly attributable sales - that much future growth will come.
With this in mind, it's also great to be able to point to a growing number of online campaigns that have had genuine brand impact, and to a body of online creative that is as exciting and well-crafted as anything in British advertising.
Creative standards really have taken a leap forward in the past year. I won't supply a personal list of favourites here as I don't want to contradict the wise selections of the great and the good at Campaign! But the fact is there probably aren't ten outstanding online cam-paigns this year. There are more like 20 or 30. And while it may be frustrating that you've done some great work that isn't listed here, it's actually a sign that we're now operating in a much more exciting sector.
And it's going to get even better. With broadband growing at an exponential rate, online is becoming an ever richer canvas. And the agreement reached earlier this year by the industry to create a limited number of standard formats, most of them bigger than the banners with which we are all so familiar, will allow for impactful advertising without resorting to potentially annoying pop-up formats.
By the end of this year, it looks like online ad investment will be almost the equal of radio at £500 million. Next year, it should easily overtake it. But, when you consider that online now accounts for 12 per cent of media consumption time, the potential is there for it to get a lot bigger yet.
From an agency perspective, it is to be hoped that this growth will be accompanied by more long-term, retained relationships. Only a few independent digital agencies can genuinely claim to have more than two or three such clients right now. Most of the work digital marketing agencies do is still on a project basis - and this really needs to change if we're to take the medium to the next level.
Alongside this, it would be great to see digital agencies involved earlier in the creative process, more often working with advertising, directing marketing and PR agencies to develop integrated ideas.
Because that's the context for all of this growth. Consumers, the people we care about more than anything else, are using a more diverse range of media channels than ever before. A great TV idea is no longer enough. Brands need to use multiple contact points, each re-inforcing the other, in order to cut through. My hope, therefore, is that we will see more work created in the next few years that follows the pioneering example set this year by Volvo. The campaign for the S40 at the beginning of the year introduced us to the "mystery of Dalaro". A series of TV ads were positioned as trailers for a documentary investigating the strange events in a small Swedish village, where 32 inhabitants bought the same car on the same day. The only place you could view the documentary was on the website. A further clever twist was added by creating a separate site, supposedly the personal web address of the film's director, one Carlos Soto, where he expressed his doubts about the film's authenticity.
So layer upon layer of brand communication was built up - the top layer, to which most people were exposed, was simply an unusually striking TV ad, but the subsequent layers delivered ever richer rewards of entertainment and intrigue for those consumers who took the trouble to engage with the brand online.
Volvo has since followed this up with a campaign for the V50, using an online film starring Robert Downey Junior, and new work for the XC70 and V70 models that involves the company's biggest online spend to date.
Given this subsequent re-investment, I'm guessing the Dalaro campaign worked. And, of course, the beauty of online is that Volvo will know it did - because they will have measured site traffic and brand impact.
Whether for brand or direct response advertising, accountability remains one of online's biggest USPs. We're already allying strong creativity to this. If you add more integrated thinking into the mix, the future of online marketing looks very bright indeed.
So am I in the right place? I wouldn't work anywhere else.
- John Owen is the planning director at Dare
THE 10 BEST DIGITAL CAMPAIGNS.
1. United Airlines, "it's time to fly United"
Lean Mean Fighting Machine has done well in its first year as an independent agency. This campaign for United uses eye-catching artwork and some great formats including a particularly good one where puppets drop down across the screen.
Agency: Lean Mean Fighting Machine
Creative directors: Sam Ball, Dave Bedwood, Simon Rosenblade, Glen
2. NSPCC, "someone to turn to"
The NSPCC has been responsible for some great advertising campaigns this year, and its online offering is no exception. Simple messages such as "Each week, at least one child is killed by their parent or carer" are matched with video overlays of children and end with calls to click and donate.
Creative director: Paul Banham
Writer: Steve Whiteley
Art director: Olly Robinson
3. O2, "happy hour"
Winner of the IPA Effectiveness Awards, Agency Republic deserves more than a mention for its digital relaunch work for O2 this year. The agency has created eight campaigns for the brand during 2004. The takeover of Yahoo! Mail for a whole day was good, but the best of the year was the "happy hour" campaign offering free texts between 7pm and 8pm.
Agency: Agency Republic
Creative director: James Cooper
4. Royal Navy, "be part of something"
Glue has continued its successful online work for the Royal Navy with this year's effort, which includes banners and skyscrapers and complements the offline activity. Some of the best work involves testing internet users' intelligence with puzzles requiring them to put scrambled words in the right order.
Agency: Glue London
Creative director: Sebastian Royce
Art directors: Gavin Gordon-Rodgers, Dan Griffiths, Leon Ostle
5.Sony Ericsson K700, "phone meets camera"
Dare's campaign takes a simple idea - that it's a phone on one side and a camera on the other - and uses non-intrusive digital to allow users to see both sides with a roll of the mouse. The average rate of interaction for expandable banners advertising technical products is 7.7 per cent, but this achieved 16.55 per cent - almost unheard of.
Writer: Gavin Bell
Art director: Richard Hale
6. Lynx, "touch"
Aimed at 16- to 24-year-old men, this campaign shows users how to get the right "touch" by setting them challenges that involve unzipping the clothes of gorgeous women. Users are taken through to a site where they can complete a series of "touch" challenges to get access to exclusive content.
Creative director: Flo Heiss
Writer: Max Kitchen
Art director: Cyrus Vantoch-Wood
7. Home Office, "avatar"
Profero's Home Office campaign warning teenagers of the dangers of using chatrooms is good enough to get the attention of an ad-unfriendly group that doesn't like being told what to. Alongside some well-executed banners and skyscrapers, an interactive element makes characters "pop-up" in chatrooms if a child looks likely to give out their contact details.
Writer: Chris Baylis
Art director: Paul Beacham
Senior designer: Jon Biggs
8. Diesel, "love nature"
Although this campaign used the offline print creative by KesselsKramer, it shows how online can enhance great creative. As well as moving 3D banners, Airlock used a new "see-through" format called DHTML, which allows users to "spy" on Diesel models frolicking among the trees, through moveable binoculars.
Creative team: Luke Powell, Charlie Martin
9. Volkswagen, "Golf V active"
This campaign used multiple formats on one web page to show three different viewpoints from a moving car - a banner showing the sky, a skyscraper that focuses on the road and a third button that shows a brake light. In one execution, a rabbit runs into the road and viewers see the car stop in time from the three different angles.
Agency: Tribal DDB
Creative directors: Sam Ball, Dave Bedwood
10. Yell.com "thank heavens for Yell.com"
This campaign aimed to build brand awareness online - something that is widely considered difficult to do with digital brands. The campaign launched with a homepage takeover on MSN Today and a series of interstitial full-page ads using the distinctive pop art-style creative.
Creative director: Daniel Bonner
Writer: Colin Byrne
Art director: James Capp
THE 10 BEST VIRAL CAMPAIGNS
1. Pot Noodle "hysterical girlfriend"
This interactive video game gives users three places to hide their Pot Noodle before their mad girlfriend catches them, continuing the Pot Noodle theme without falling into the trap of being outrageous for the sake of it.
Agency: Glue London
Creative director: Sebastian Royce
2. 3 "horny", "waxwork"
The top spot this year goes to TBWA\GGT for its 2004 viral work for 3, eight executions in all. There have been some very funny films made, particularly "horny", featuring a man choosing which of a selection of watermelons to take to bed with him, and "waxwork", where the dubious image of a guy waxing his back is broadcast to his friends on a 3 phone.
Creative director: Nick Moore
3. BBC Business Learning "boringboringboring"
This very addictive game involves throwing screwed up pieces of paper into a wastepaper bin and was designed to support the launch of the BBC Business Learning website. The game had more than 4.5 million unique users and was recommended no less than 161,000 times.
Creative: Oliver Christie
4. Sony "wrecker"
Created for the launch of the PlayStation Destruction Derby, this mini-game avoided trying to replicate the original driving game. Instead, users get to use a huge wrecking ball to smash up passing cars. The game was played nearly five million times and, at its peak, got 150,000 hits every 24 hours.
Creative director: Louis Clement
5. The Observer "Abba to Zappa"
Abba to Zappa is a music quiz developed around The Observer's above-the-line advertising for its Music Monthly and was designed to get users signed up for reminder e-mails. Pop music's greatest artists - from A to Z - are featured as pixellated versions of themselves.
Agency: Poke London
Creative director: Nik Roope
6. BT Broadband "where did the time go?"
Agency.com created a game and series of ads leading to a microsite emphasising how much time people waste in their lives doing things such as trying to get home. The site recorded more than 500,000 visitors and made 100 direct sales - a return on investment of 911 per cent.
Creative director: Paul Banham
7. The Times "scrabble"
Mook's scrabble game promoting the compact Times invited players to make the highest score possible in four moves and then challenge their friends. A total of 300,000 games were played and nearly 7,000 players registered.
Creative director: Tom Adams
8. Time Out "rabbit culture"
This makes the top ten for being a great viral campaign that isn't interactive and doesn't involve naked women. The life-size toy rabbit that stars in this 60-second film clip spends the day enjoying the best that London has to offer but it's the rabbit's expression and dance moves that make this so good.
Writers/art directors: Jez Cripps, Jim Connolly
9. The Sun "dream team"
This film promotes the new season of The Sun's Dreamteam fantasy football league and shows a player scoring a great goal before ripping off his shirt to reveal the body of a naked women. Around two million people saw the film and a million visited the Dreamteam site.
- Agency/creative team: The Viral Factory
10. Lastminute.com "Love Tattoo"
The Love Tattoo site lets users create their own tattoo on a naked (male or female) bum and send it to the object of their affections. More than 83,000 people visited the site over the Valentine's period and sent 10,000 tattoos.
Creative: Oliver Christie
THE 10 BEST MOBILE CAMPAIGNS.
1. Orange Wednesdays
This three-year campaign offers Orange customers "two for one" on cinema tickets every Wednesday, via vouchers sent to their mobiles. The was the first nationwide attempt at mobile couponing and as part of the scheme, more than 2,000 voucher redemption terminals were installed in cinemas to check vouchers for validity.
- Agency: Flytxt
2. Fcuk radio
Fcuk was the first business to use a branded shortcode as part of a messaging campaign in the UK, asking users to text keywords to 8FCUK as part of a push to promote its new radio station, Fcuk FM. The company also became the first to launch a simultaneous UK and US mobile campaign.
- Agencies: Marvellous Mobile, Vodafone Target
3. Pete Tong FastTrax
The Radio One DJ Pete Tong has created a weekly music show especially for 3 customers, who can download the two-minute segments for 50p each. Each programme includes clips of the album of the week plus club, fashion and new music reviews. The service is getting more than 40,000 downloads each month.
- Agency: Inventa
4. Levi's MAX
This application for Levi's Europe allows people to compose their own mobile phone ringtones for free, without giving out their mobile numbers. Available to download from www.eu.levi.com, this campaign launched in October using the sort of technology that could make a sizeable dent in the lucrative global ringtone market.
- Agency: Lateral
5. Cornetto Love Potions
People who bought a Love Potion Cornetto also got a "teasecard", which allowed them to send one of nine multimedia images with a personal flirt message to their friends. Every two weeks between May and August, an independent panel of judges picked the best message and the winner received £1,000.
- Agencies: Catalyst Marketing, Flytxt
6. Pepsi Free-Kick Challenge
UCI Cinemas and Pepsi used location targeting to invite football fans to the Pepsi Free-Kick Challenge in UCI Multiplex cinema venues across the UK. The campaign targeted 14- to 30-year-olds who live close to UCI cinemas, with texts sent out in the 24 hours before each challenge.
- Agency: Enpocket
7. Sky Bet
Sky's bookmaking arm moved into mobile for the first time this year with this campaign for the Sky Bet "Kick Off" betting service. More than 80,000 men were sent messages encouraging them to bet on which Premiership team would get the most points over the first ten games of the football season.
- Agency: Mindmatics
8. Orange Snapshot
Orange offered prizes for the best mobile phone pictures in a bid to get its customers using MMS. Users were asked to take photos based on themes such "the best part of your day" and send them in to the online gallery.
- Agency: Enpocket
9. Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
The TV production company Celador's SMS competition to accompany the latest series of ITV1's Who Wants to be A millionaire? gives viewers the chance to text answers to questions that contestants on the television show walk away from. The viewer that provides the right answer in the fastest time wins a £1,000 cash prize. The competition uses technology that can process as many as 1.8 million text messages an hour.
- Agency: Yoomedia
10. Club 18-30
The youth holiday brand Club 18-30 launched a WAP mobile guide to Ibiza this year, offering information on clubs, restaurants and bars on the island to visitors who text "guide" to the number advertised at Ibiza airport. Club 18-30 is now planning a new mobile push around its end-of-year party.
- Agencies: Marvellous Mobile, Vodafone Target.