2008 Online Media of the Year Awards

The figures on paper look dire and they haven't gotten much better in the past 12 months -- 2-4% of ad spend goes into the online space in Singapore depending on who you ask, and depending on who you are targeting, those very soft numbers harden up a little when you look at categories like travel and all but evaporate in some sectors.

So why look at the trends and intentions for online media spend in Singapore at all?

Because the promise of online is coming to fruition in other parts of the world and while the growth here is infuriatingly slow, considering what a price sensitive market we all operate in and given the potential efficiency of online spend, Asia (barring Japan and Korea of course) may be late bloomers but they will bloom.

With few exceptions marketers here are extremely cautious and change averse when it comes to shifting spend into online and mobile media. If you ask them what will get them over the line it's always about case studies -- "show me something that worked and I'll show you the money". This very reasonable request leads to a shuffling of feet or a scrambling for links to offshore examples of successful campaigns, the rock star hits of online marketing that turn up at every conference every year, but where are the local examples? Where is the money being made locally and where is the evidence that it is safe to integrate more online into the mix? These are the questions marketers want the answers to before more money makes that shift into online media and these are the answers online media owners need to provide the answers to. Only then will more marketers move from cautious tire-kicking into more committed test driving of fully integrated strategies which involve more online components.

Accepting growth is slow but assuming that when it does move it will move fast, Marketing's annual survey on marketers online marketing intentions is important for what it tells us our readers not only think are the best places to put budget in the online space, but where they would like to put it if they had more to spend.

In this year's survey we put particular emphasis on how marketers would target specific demographics as well as specific market segments and results offered some surprises, for instance that marketers would prefer to target the teen segment via the second most popular social network in Singapore rather than the one with the highest traffic, and that marketers would always turn to search engines when targeting the highly educated, the high earners, the environmentally concerned, the thought leaders, the early adopters but which search engine, but not the same one for all of these desirable segments.

There is increasing chatter around online properties which integrate at least some form of transactional functionality being the big wave of growth in online marketing in the near future. This is due to the amount of consumer DNA left behind when someone interacts with such a platform, and with this data it is a lot easier for a marketer to create and smash ROI targets and therefore to get excited about growing the online segment of their budget. It was therefore a unusual to find so few transactional online media properties appear in the survey results this year. Travel deal aggregator Zuji was a commendable exception, not only beating out the search engines for first place in the travel category but securing an overall 11th slot across all sectors.

Several online platforms that offer specialist content did stand out, particularly in the tech category with Hardware Zone and CNET performing well, but it was search engines Google and Yahoo who consistently rose to the top across multiple categories, which doesn't necessarily reflect the ability of search engines to meet all specific market sectors, but their ability to deliver diverse and consistent audiences across many demograhic segments.

The challenge for more specialised content sites will be to impress upon marketers their ability to drill deep vertically and deliver attentive and desirable audiences, if you think it's impossible when faced with the might and heritage of search engines, take a good look at the results which prove that some have managed the task already.