According to the study, 63% of the 140 advertising-industry leaders said big companies are "generally behind the curve when it comes to online ad strategy," and 58% said they have problems keeping pace with a changing digital environment.
The survey, conducted by Atlantic Media Co. for AAF, found that the 91% of respondents see the online media environment as "empowering to advertisers," allowing the ad industry to shape its own development. Respondents expect online efforts to rise to 20% of marketing budgets this year, up from 15% last year.
The survey was issued as more than 700 attendees began a three-day conference here themed "Pixel Shift: Taking Part of Change" and listened as AAF President-CEO Wallace S. Snyder and other speakers said companies need to do more to take charge of the web and new technologies.
"We have a responsibility and a mandate to take charge of the changes that we see sweeping though the industry. Thing are moving real fast, and we aren't even on the fast track yet," Mr. Snyder said, adding that "breakthroughs are not light years away. Some are around the corner. Many are already here."
'An amazing time'
Attendees also heard they are on the threshold of an exciting time for the business. "We are in a new golden age," said Laura Desmond, CEO of MediaVest, talking about the possibility that new technologies could open doors for breakthroughs and innovative new campaigns. "It's an amazing time to be a marketer," said Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo.
Sean Finnegan, U.S. director of OMD Direct, said online technologies are melding what had once been separate advertising and online efforts, each with its own agency.
In the conference's first day, speakers said new technology can be both bad and good. Andrew Zolli, founder of Z+ Partners, said technology offers a new ability to market and reach out to consumers, but also makes it easier for them to register and read complaints, and also get information on rivals.
Jeff Jones, director-interactive for WonderGroup, a Cincinnati agency that does teen and tween consulting, said technology increases the importance of looking not only at whether new creative is a "big idea" but whether that idea can tie in to multiple activities, not simply on TV or on the web, but also on venues such as mobile phones and buzz channels.
AAF, an ad-industry association that includes local ad clubs, is due to hear Michael Roth, chairman-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos., speak today and Maurice Levy, chairman-CEO, Publicis Groupe, tomorrow.