By 2004, 121 million Europeans will be online - that’s 32 per cent
of all adults. This forecast is made by Fletcher Research in a recent
management report, Internet Europe: Connecting the Consumer. The exact
truth of the prediction will only be known five years from now, but what
cannot be in doubt is that people in Europe are getting hooked up to the
net in droves.
Already, the UK and Germany have more than ten million internet users
apiece, with a further four million in France and three million in
And many smaller countries like the Netherlands and the Scandinavian
nations have higher levels of penetration.
Yet, despite the fact that the internet is no respecter of national
frontiers, there has to date been precious little cross-border activity
from advertisers. Language and cultural differences have, of course,
militated against such programmes, as have differing levels of market
’We’re seeing growth all over Europe at the moment but the markets are
at different points,’ Fletcher Research’s director, William Reeve,
’The advertising market is still country-based rather than European and
is likely to stay so, with the exception perhaps of technology clients.
DoubleClick notwithstanding, the buying and selling really takes place
at a local level.’
Another barrier to the creation of a more ordered European internet
advertising marketplace has been a lack of cross-border co-operation
between key organisations and companies in the still nascent new-media
world. There are signs, though, that this is beginning to change.
For instance, the UK arm of the Internet Advertising Bureau is working
more closely with its sister organisations across the Continent. Danny
Meadows-Klue, the IAB’s UK director, says: ’The intention now is to take
what the IAB has achieved in the UK in terms of developing standards,
generating research that everyone relies on and making the buying
process easier - and make that part of a European agenda by working with
sister IAB organisations across Europe.’
Co-operation was formalised this summer with the creation of IAB Europe
as an umbrella under which the IABs from ten different countries can
work together to make life easier for advertisers. IAB Europe is said to
have the support of more than 1,000 companies, which operate websites
that are thought to account for at least 80 per cent of internet
advertising revenue in Europe.
Working groups have been established to explore - on a Europe-wide basis
- issues such as campaign measurement, advertising standards, e-commerce
and the auditing of advertising expenditure. The latter has been a bone
of contention for some time, with advertisers understandably keen to
find an accurate way of determining the sites in Europe that lead the
way in generating ad revenue. Currently, this tends to be calculated on
a rather rough and ready basis - it involves counting the number of
banner ads on a site and multiplying by the media owner’s ratecard. It’s
hardly a rigorous or satisfactory method.
’There is still a good deal of difficulty surrounding the subject of
measurement,’ says Phil Dwyer, European managing director of the
internet research company, Jupiter Communications. ’It is difficult to
measure ’page views’ for sites which are assembling pages out of
databases, rather than static HTML pages, for example. Besides, the
measures we are stuck with - page impressions per month, for example -
are pretty meaningless to advertisers. What they need to measure is how
many people saw the ad.
Over and above that, how many people clicked on the ad? How many of
those generated solid leads? How many turned into sales? How does that
tally with the demographic breakdown of the audience?’
To ensure that the advertiser’s voice is heard, clients and agency
buyers have established their own forum, Fast, in which Procter & Gamble
and IBM are prime movers. Fast and the IAB are working together to try
and bring about greater consistency in the marketplace.
’There is definitely a need to look at standards on a regional European
level,’ says Tim Brown, the IAB’s international co-ordinator, who also
sits on the steering committee of Fast. ’What will probably happen is
that Fast and the IAB will come up with voluntary guidelines, and the
IAB will implement them.’ Done properly, this will be of benefit to
media owners and advertisers alike. And it would certainly make it
easier to develop pan-European campaigns.
’The net is a global medium and more and more companies are buying
across countries and regions,’ Paul Zwillenberg, former managing
director at Associated New Media, says. ’So anything that makes it
easier to buy and sell is a good thing for the industry. The challenge
is to capture the unique way each market works while making it easy for
campaigns to work across borders.’
Among the online properties owned by Associated is UK Plus, the search
and directory services site. In March, UK Plus joined the AllEurope
network of portals, which includes Web.de in Germany, Nomade.fr in
France, Virgilio of Italy and Ole from Spain. Although it offers
advertisers a single buying point, AllEurope takes the view that
independent media brands, well established in their local markets,
represent the future for pan-European advertising.
And it does seem as if the bigger advertisers are beginning to give
pan-European internet campaigns greater consideration. However, it’s
really only the major portals - such as Yahoo!, Excite and Lycos - that
can offer pan-European coverage, so any serious campaign will involve
putting together a schedule of sites across Europe.
’The fragmentation issues are beginning to show themselves and clients
can see the potential damage of this,’ Bates Interactive’s managing
director, Mike Crossman, says. ’So they are starting to think about and
look at the potential of pan-European buys.’
To make pan-European buys easier, the quality of information available
for planning is improving almost daily. Fletcher Research has set up an
international new-media research network, called E-Source, with partners
from four European countries. The partners are Mediangles (France),
Fittkau & Maass (Germany), Pro Active (Netherlands) and Insites
(Belgium). All are leaders in their domestic markets.
E-Source will develop profiling information - comparable to that used in
the UK - on the online populations of other European markets. This
standardisation - and appreciation of national differences - should help
new-media planners and buyers no end. E-Source’s clients will be able to
access online data from more than 100,000 respondents across five
countries. There are plans to expand into other countries over time.
Meanwhile, Jupiter Communications, the internet consultancy, recently
acquired the Swedish new-media research specialist, Intelligence AB. The
foundations for Europe’s digital infrastructure have been in place for a
few years now, but at last they are starting to be overlaid with the
sort of common sense and consistency of approach that advertisers
EUROPEAN WEBSITES: TOP PERFORMERS
The lack - to date - of a credible system for auditing internet
advertising expenditure makes it impossible to compare the performance
of leading European websites in terms of attracting advertising revenue.
However, it is possible to identify sites that are among the top
performers in their respective market-places, and here are six that are
worth looking at seriously.
www.fireball.de A search engine and navigation tool developed by G+J
Electronic Media Service to provide information in German on the
It is the largest German language web-index and the country’s most
popular portal site - recording 8.2 million visits and 42 million page
views in July 1999. Its advertisers include Amazon, eBay, Deutsche Bank,
Bertelsmann, Bayer, Commerzbank, Shell, Microsoft and Deutsche Telekom.
Its audience has a strong male bias - 77.2 per cent male to 22.8 per
cent female - but spans a broad age range. G+J EMS offers the largest
portfolio of online products in Germany, having developed new-media
versions of many of G+J’s established print titles, including Stern
Online which in July this year recorded more than five million visits
and delivered almost 32 million page views.
www.thisislondon.co.uk Associated New Media’s online version of its
Evening Standard daily newspaper. It generates 6.2 million page
impressions a month from about 1.2 million visits and attracts pounds
1.25 million a year in advertising from the likes of British Airways,
IBM, BT, Toyota, Audi, Thames Water, BMW, Disneyland Paris and Virgin.
Sponsorship and co-branded content opportunities are available as well.
About 45 per cent of users are female - which is fairly high in internet
terms. Sixty-three per cent of users are aged 25-44 and 87 per cent are
www.veronica.nl The online version of Holland’s leading TV listings
magazine, Veronica. This site attracts mainstream advertisers such as
the beer brand, Grolsch, the national telecoms company, KPN, the sanpro
brand, Libresse and MasterCard. An estimated 400,000-500,000 users, most
of whom are in the 15-35 age group, clock up six million page
impressions a month. Content is predominantly about music, film and
video - some is lifted from the print title but much is created
especially for the online product. ’It’s the number one entertainment
site in Holland,’ says Rene Betlem, account manager at IP, the sales
operation. ’The other sites in the top ten are more functional, like
access providers, the telephone book and web search engines.’
www.nomade.fr French search and directory service that belongs to the
AllEurope network. It attracts 100,000 visits a day and ad revenue for
the year ending 31 March 1999 was Fr10 million (pounds 1 million). Among
its 100 or so advertisers are Audi, Banque Direct, Coca-Cola, Compaq,
Digital, Eurocard, France Telecom, Galeries Lafayette, IBM and La
Redoute. There is a male bias to the user base, with a core audience of
men aged 25-49 in the higher social and professional categories.
www.spiegel.de. After the success it has enjoyed in bringing its Spiegel
brand to German television, it comes as little surprise that Spiegel
Group has made a decent fist of transferring its famous current affairs
title onto the web. As at July 1999, the online version of the magazine
was attracting almost three million visits and eight million page
impressions a month. Turnover is above pounds 1 million and advertisers
include Toshiba Europa, IBM Deutschland, Sun Microsystems, Andersen
Consulting, Subaru, ZDF, Union Investment and Microsoft.
www.passagen.se Scandinavia Online’s passagen.se is the leading portal
site in Sweden, ranking throughout 1999 as the most visited Swedish
internet site. In June, it was selected as the best internet site in
Sweden by the IDG magazine, Internetworld. In addition to passagen.se,
the network also contains the leading search engine, Evreka (powered by
In May, Passagen Network recorded more than 1.9 million visitors - 53
per cent of Sweden’s internet population. It is also the biggest single
internet advertising vehicle, with an 11.8 per cent of the market in