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Marketers anticipate online spending rise

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As companies realize the effectiveness of online marketing in reaching targeted audiences with measurable results, they will boost their spending in this medium in 2006.

Research company eMarketer estimates that online ad spending in the U.S. will reach $15.6 billion in 2006, up from $12.9 billion this year. Beyond that, marketers are also investing in digital marketing including blogs, podcasts, Webcasts, e-mail, Web sites and database marketing to reach business customers.

"We will increase our online spending more than in the past—we'll probably double our online spending," said Karen Jones, VP-advertising, brand and promotions at DHL Express USA. She declined to reveal the budget.

"We're seeing better response from online than we've seen in years," Jones said.

She added online direct response marketing, such as using shipping offers in interactive banners, helps DHL understand its audience better and provide targeted messaging.

The result has been an increase in new accounts and more business from existing accounts, she said.

In 2006, DHL will continue to use offers in banners and interactive microsites to provide more in-depth information about products and services.

It will also use click-to-talk, in which users can click on ads to talk to an account rep, and it will experiment with entertainment such as online games.

Intel Corp. also plans to boost its online budget, said Nancy Bhagat, VP-sales and marketing and director of direct marketing at Intel.

"We feel very strongly that the online medium is a powerful one for us. We are going to be emphasizing more online communications," Bhagat said.

Intel plans "take-overs"

Intel plans to use more "take-over" buys, such as recent media buys on Yahoo.com in which Intel ads cover the entire page.

"We are also going to do more experiential marketing, using the Web site for the hub of communications," Bhagat said.

Intel plans to develop more microsites that provide interactive experiences for users, including audio and video, and offering multiple paths of interaction to answer customer questions, provide product information and solve problems.

Oracle Corp. also plans to increase its online marketing budget in 2006, according to Todd Forsythe, VP-marketing at Oracle.

"We'll decrease online banner advertising and increase custom content and Webcasts with publishers," Forsythe said. "We are placing increased focus on business intelligence and trending analysis, as well as interactive technologies to better enable blogging and customer forums."

In the first quarter, Oracle plans to roll out a new blogging infrastructure that will provide advanced capabilities for its blogging community.

So far, Oracle has an online community of between 60 and 70 blogs that are published by Oracle customers and partners, discussing how they use Oracle technology. In addition, Oracle employees publish blogs on best practices for using the company's tools.

"The differentiation is that we will implement a third-party blog engine to enable the infrastructure and make it more coherent," said Nathaniel Robinson, senior director of brand and creative at Oracle.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is also planning to increase its online marketing in 2006, although the company declined to say by how much.

HP Budget reflects Web reliance

"As we are seeing our customers from the C-level on down relying more heavily on the Web, we are adjusting our budget allocation accordingly in 2006," said Scott Anderson, director-enterprise brand communications at HP.

"As the volume of online content continues to grow at an astronomical rate, our customers are relying more heavily on filtering and customization techniques to cut through the clutter and get to what they need," Anderson said.

To address this need, HP will invest in search engine marketing, search engine optimization and customized portals and e-newsletters in 2006. "Our goal is to help customers get to whatever they're looking for quickly and efficiently," Anderson said.

Other online marketing tools HP plans to invest in next year include online chat, events, blogs and podcasting.

Others still testing online waters

However, while many b-to-b marketers are investing heavily in online marketing, some are still testing the waters.

"We're still trying to get our heads around online advertising," said John Beering, director of marketing for Pratt & Whitney Commercial Engines and Global Service Partners, a division of United Technologies Corp., Hartford, Conn.

"Does it have the reach? Do we get a good return? We don't have a lot of experience with it yet." 

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