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Time to come online

The profession is missing out by ignoring the growing importance of online advertising

Q: Which recession growth industry is the accountancy profession missing out
on? A: The digital communications business.

The remarkable growth of internet (or digital, or online, depending on the
jargon) advertising is underlined by the latest figures just released by the
Internet Advertising Bureau. They show that this medium has now overtaken TV
advertising to become the leading above-the-line communicator. But professional
services expenditure, which includes accountancy firms, has actually dipped in
the last year while budgets for other sectors marketing goods and services to
the public rose sharply.

The soaring figures for digital are all the more remarkable for the tough
economic background within which they multiply. In the first half of 2009 alone,
internet advertising grew by 4.6% to £1,752m, despite the entire advertising
sector contracting by nearly 17% over the same period, making the UK world
leaders in market share for online.

So canny advertisers are taking advantage of a huge shift in public use of
the internet in order to reach buying audiences. But not, apparently, accounting
practices.

So why do accountancy firms back away from the most modern method of reaching
consumers?

Well, according to Stephen Fox, managing director of marketing specialists
Fox Kalomaski: “Marketing budgets are down overall, dragging digital with them.
And, let’s face it, a lot of marketers also find the new online methodology
difficult to understand and evaluate. It’s a bit of a culture shock and
therefore a barrier to development.

“But it seems to me that a more professional approach would be to examine
seriously those parts of the marketing budget that deliver the best value and
concentrate financial resources accordingly. With its recently improved direct
response tools, an increase in accounting firms’ online spend would then be
inevitable,” Fox concludes.

In fact, home internet use is three times that of the work place, so who are
all these millions of online visitors? Well, the internet user population is
spread roughly equally across all social-economic and age groups, including a
significant and rising number of over-55s. But it’s worth advertisers exploiting
specific phenomena such as the fact that women aged 24 to 35 spend more time
online than men, for example.

And attitudes towards advertising encountered on the internet are pretty
positive, resulting in £46bn spent by consumers via the medium in 2007.Also, in
practical terms, they reveal that what prompts the purchases that produced this
enormous figure are promotional emails and online advertising.

Moreover, online users also say that the biggest motivator for all this
activity and expenditure is to research information, with the greatest use of
the internet being visits to sites where the public can buy.

So you could actually say that for accountancy firms to advertise online is
to push at an open door.

Danny Brooks is project director at brik digital

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