By 2007, adspend on the internet will account for a 4.4 per cent share of the market, according to the latest predictions from ZenithOptimedia.
This presents many clients with a dilemma - with more and more money going into the medium, do they need a global strategy for digital rather than an ad hoc approach in local markets?
Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline and L'Oreal seem to think so: all three have called global digital pitches in the past six months. As Guy Lambert, the managing director of OgilvyOne London, says: "Clients are starting to ask how digital should relate to the rest of their global marketing mix."
The problem for clients looking for a global digital agency is that there are few full-service agencies with offices in every major market. Traditional ad agency networks may have global reach, but most do not have the skills to be included on global digital-only pitch lists.
Nigel Morris is the worldwide chief executive of Isobar, Aegis' full-service digital network, which counts Adidas among its global clients.
The network has not yet met its stated target of a full-service office in every top-40 market, but it does have a wider global reach than most digital businesses.
"Clients need global advice on how digital fits into their overall marketing strategy and, to do that, you need to be on the ground. You can't advise a client on the Chinese market unless you have a presence there," Morris argues.
OgilvyOne Worldwide also features frequently on global pitchlists and has offices in even more major markets - but differs in that it is primarily a direct-response rather than a branding agency.
However, outside these two, no network can be said to offer anything like a complete global footprint. Profero, for instance, has 12 offices in Europe and Asia, but no US coverage as yet; while Wheel (part of LB Icon) has a gap in its Asian offering. But does a network need an office in every market to service a global client? The best-known creative networks, such as AKQA, R/GA and Tribal DDB, would say no; they operate as micro-networks.
Modem Media and Digitas work together under the umbrella of Digitas Inc to offer global reach, though the network has only partnership agreements in place for Asia. Norm Johnston, the Modem Media managing director for Europe, says a presence in every market is not always necessary - 80 per cent of global work, he says, is produced in one place and tweaked for roll-out in local markets.
AKQA services all of its clients on either a global or regional basis, but only has offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC and Singapore (though it plans to open in Shanghai and Tokyo soon). With Nike, for instance, it works on global, pan-regional and local campaigns - such as this summer's online push for Nike Run London.
Ajaz Ahmed, the AKQA chairman, says clients hire it for its product, not its distribution. "The big idea and the global thought can be done anywhere," he says. "All you need is enough size to ensure quality and regional insight."
THE TOP GLOBAL DIGITAL PLAYERS ISOBAR Offices: 63 offices in 32 countries Employees: 1,274 Global accounts: Adidas, EMI, Kodak, Pernod Ricard, Renault, Panasonic, Logitec The lowdown: Viewed by some as a ragtag bag of disparate local agencies, but has a broader global reach than most of its competition. OGILVYONE WORLDWIDE Offices: 115 offices in 56 countries Employees: 4,000 Global accounts: American Express, IBM, Cisco, SAP, Nestle, Yahoo! The lowdown: Services most of its clients as a result of its relationship through the Ogilvy networks, but pitches separately on global digital-only accounts. Focuses on direct response. MODEM MEDIA/DIGITAS Offices: Five in the US, three in Europe plus partnerships in Asia Employees: 1,735 Global accounts: HP, General Motors, eBay, Microsoft The lowdown: One of the market leaders in the US. Has a lower profile outside that market, but it does run HP and GM out of Modem Media's London office. Strong in search and site work. AKQA Offices: Five - London, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Singapore Employees: 350 Global accounts: Coca-Cola, Xbox, Nike The lowdown: Triumphed in the global pitch for Coke. Has a strong reputation for creativity and has recently hired some of the world's most-awarded digital creatives. TRIBAL DDB Offices: 21 offices in 15 countries Employees: 600 Global accounts: Volkswagen, Philips, McDonald's, Pepsi The lowdown: Works on accounts from its Omnicom sibling DDB, but local agencies are also encouraged to pitch for business independently. Offers consultancy, site build and marketing (including media).