The further the economy declines, the more online advertising will benefit, according to a survey of media buyers and brand managers recently carried out by MSN.co.uk.
More than half of all respondents said they would increase their online budgets to the detriment of other media if the economy declines further, citing the cost-effectiveness of the internet as a media channel.
The biggest casualty of an increase in online spend will be television, according to the report, which will see a 26% decrease if budgets are cut. Press spend is predicted to decline by 25% and direct by 21% if the economy falls further, according to the report.
"Direct is a surprising casualty," said MSN.co.uk business-to-business marketing manager Amanda Anthony.
"There is lots of experimentation with both direct and online, but many see online as a direct medium."
Almost two-thirds of brand managers and directors already use online and a further 15% plan to do so in the next six months, the survey reports.
MSN surveyed more than 500 media buyers and brand managers in the first of a regular series tracking the market.
Anthony said: "We wanted to test the marketplace - and found it to be positive."
However, the impact of the internet as a branding tool is still unknown to many, with 30% of media buyers claiming to be prevented from increasing online budgets due to a lack of evidence as to its branding ability.
Almost the same amount said they do not understand the full value of online.
"If we crack the branding effect, we crack the reasons stopping people using online," said Anthony.
The potential benefits of online as a media channel are apparent, however.
A total of 65% of respondents cited measurability and accountability as factors which will encourage media buyers to recommend clients increase online spend, while the potential for targeting and getting close to consumers through online also rated highly.
"The physicality of the net - the ability to be consumed by the medium - is unique to online", Anthony said.
MSN UK director Geoff Sutton commented: "As online media owners, we still have things to get right, but online spend is on the increase.
"Although industry predictions are cautious, the mood
at the coal face is positive and upbeat."