Digital advertising in Ireland is on the up, hooray! Open the champagne. But wait a minute. Let’s not congratulate ourselves too much. Ireland is still lagging significantly behind other European markets in terms of advertiser investment in online.
The latest IAB / PwC Study predicts that digital won’t become the lead medium in Ireland in terms of advertising investment until 2016. If correct, this is a very poor projection indeed. Digital overtook TV as the biggest medium in the UK in 2010 which puts Ireland at least 6 years behind our nearest neighbour.
The assertion from some quarters that this is because Ireland is a less mature market than the UK simply isn’t true. To a large degree it is the advertising market (clients and their agencies) that have failed to evolve properly, not Irish consumers.
The reality is that Irish consumers have always kept pace with changes in technology so much so that the recent Mediascope Study (again from IAB Ireland) revealed that they demonstrate online usage levels well above the European average.
They jumped enthusiastically on the ‘wave of technology’ that arrived on our shores a number of years ago and it’s the savviest advertisers and agencies that followed them that are now reaping the real benefits of this ‘brave new world.’ A world, by the way, which is now very much the norm for most of us.
Advertisers and agencies that were too slow to or didn’t even bother to wax down their surf boards are now paddling frantically to catch-up. And even today, some still continue to downplay the very obvious fact that the tide has truly turned and allocate minimal spends to their digital activity.
It is this disconnect between how advertisers and their agencies plan campaigns and how actual consumers behave that is, in my view, the greatest challenge the industry in Ireland faces.
All agencies, regardless of their alignment or specialty have a responsibility to ensure that the out-dated, linear approach to media and creative planning which has always put offline executions first and treated digital as something to be ‘bolted on’ on ‘looked at later’ is let go of once and for all.
Solutions to briefs should be borne out of an objective approach to actually answering the brief – not the crude media and creative budget carve up that defined the Celtic Tiger hey day, when spend targets sometimes seemed more important than delivering results for the client.
And you’d think that in the cold light of the recession that particular party would be well and truly over. Take quick glance, however, at Nielsen Adspend data and you’ll notice that some of the biggest brands in the market and still making shocking over investments in some media and a worrying under investment in other, much more important areas.
But don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent examples of truly objective and joined-up thinking happening in many areas. What I’m simply trying to say is that these should be the norm, not something we’re still aspiring to.
Let’s stop paying lip service to what is now so fundamental to the future of our sector and double our commitment to genuine integration and development of our talent to deal with the new reality.There’s a lot riding on it – our industries reputation, employment and jobs, a return to growth and the long term sustainability of indigenous industry – both our own and our client’s
So, digital will obviously continue to grow and play a bigger role, but only if the advertising sector in Ireland makes a genuine effort to grow-up with it.