Digital seems to be the new black. It’s the trend everyone is talking about. Advertising budgets might shrink, say ‘those in the know’, but online platforms will attract a bigger share of those budgets than ever before.
The global CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, Laura Desmond, told the Dubai Lynx festival last week that worldwide digital spending will see double-digit growth this year. And here in the Middle East, research company Real Opinions says its survey of almost 450 business people in the region showed more than a third were increasingly interested in the internet as a communications channel.
Why is this? Well, apparently its reach is more measurable. It’s also more flexible – ads can be continually adjusted and targeted more accurately. Crucially, it is also cheaper. One recent estimate puts digital ad rates at around a fifth of their print counterparts.
But questions remain. Firstly, are websites and internet services in the Middle East sufficiently well-developed to offer advertisers and agencies an effective platform?
Secondly, is there any good evidence for the success of online ads? It’s all very well telling us how many people viewed the page where the ad appeared but we don’t always know whether this led the consumer to make a purchase.
Related to that point is the argument that many consumers are irritated by the intrusion of uninvited ads flashing up on their screens. From banners to pop-ups and search to screensavers, nobody has properly solved the conundrum of how ads should appear on the internet.
Furthermore, is there a lingering mistrust of online ads? Brands that are already well established and well trusted are probably safe from such suspicion, but what about a new brand?
All of which makes us wonder (returning to our slightly awkward fashion metaphor) whether digital is the latest little black dress – appears to be dazzling but cleverly covers up one or two embarrassing flaws underneath?