Opinion: Perspective - Time for truce in the war between TV and the web

There's something about the Internet Advertising Bureau's triumphalism every time it releases a new set of web ad revenue figures that makes me want to wave a flag for television.

It's not just the fact that the IAB seems to prefer releasing its news first to the national media, where, presumably, it knows it will get some fairly superficial and gushing coverage of digital's supremacy.

What also really irritates me is the IAB's persistence in setting itself against the rest of the industry as though the battle for advertising revenue was a war in which there can only be one winner.

The IAB's latest stats, released this week, show that internet advertising has grown by almost 5 per cent in the first half of this year. Hands down, that's a brilliant achievement when the ad sector as a whole has contracted by almost 17 per cent in the same period.

And the IAB makes much of the fact that "the internet has now overtaken TV advertising to become the UK's biggest advertising medium".Well, no. Only if you count the web's "classified" advertising and not just display.

But, really, the only possible comparison is based on display advertising, in which case the internet is a bit bigger than the radio medium, and a bit smaller than magazines. And let's not forget that, combining display and classified, the press is still the biggest ad medium around.

Anyway, does it really serve the advertising industry for the IAB to reinforce the old, out-moded divisions between online and offline media in this sort of fight-to-the-death opposition?

Advertisers don't think like that. Increasingly, agencies can't afford to think like that. And content providers don't think like that.

You won't find a broadcaster or publisher these days that isn't hungrily driving their online advertising revenues, striking ad deals that range across their online and offline assets, often doing it all in a more professional way than pure play digital sites, and making a significant contribution to that growth in internet ad revenues that the IAB is crowing about.

Any growth, anywhere in the current climate, is to be celebrated. And the rise of the internet has wholly transformed advertising and marketing for the better. So the days of the internet being seen as something new, something "other", are thankfully long over. It's time the IAB recognised that.

I envy the Saatchi & Saatchi crew that were down at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth this week. Party political advertising in the run-up to a General Election is surely one of the biggest adrenaline kicks an agency can get.

There's no advertising challenge as important as leading the country to make the right choice in a General Election (and, no doubt, Saatchis fully believes the Labour Party is the right choice). And there's no advertising challenge as great, right now, as trying to revive Gordon Brown's fortunes.

But set against the might of The Sun, advertising is, surely, likely to be a more blunt instrument. For the first time in 12 years, The Sun has pitched itself against the Labour Party and called for change. Newspaper headlines don't get much more brutal than: "Labour's Lost It." The Sun's front page on Wednesday went on to say "after 12 long years in power, this Government has lost its way. Now it's lost The Sun's support too."

Now, Brown has shrugged this off by saying that it's the public that decide the outcome of elections, not the press. But,of course, he knows that PR - like advertising - is a key weapon in influencing voter choice. And, of course, he knows that PR doesn't get much more powerful than the front page of The Sun.

Saatchis is going to have to come up with something phenomenal if the power of advertising is to overcome the power of The Sun.

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