Online marketing activities proving popular in events industry

22nd September 2009

Developing an online presence has become a key strategy for many companies and websites have become an essential for firms looking to extend their customer base, particularly during the recession.

As an indication of how the internet is growing in popularity, recent figures from ZenithOptimedia showed that online advertising will grow by ten per cent this year, reaching a 15.1 per cent share of global expenditure by 2011.

The internet is the only advertising medium expected to grow this year and its virtues of transparency, accountability and flexibility have proved more attractive than ever in the recession.

Nicki Lynus, head of research at the UK's Internet Advertising Bureau, said that the rise in availability and falling cost of broadband is driving this trend.

"We know for a fact that the upturn in broadband connection means people do a lot more online, including watching lots more online TV and online video content," she explained.

Businesses within the events industry have not been indifferent to this trend and online presence is a key part of marketing efforts for many suppliers and venues.

Jim Curry, marketing communications manager at the Events Industry Alliance (EIA), said that the importance of the internet and use of websites was highlighted at the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) conference last year, when David Levin, chief executive of UBM Live, emphasised the "natural partnership between online and live media".

"Through online, established events and shows are able to extend their engagement with visitors and exhibitors through community-based participation," Mr Curry explained.

The EIA itself has been working on each of its websites, for the AEO, the Association of Event Venues and the Event Supplier and Services Association, with the aim of meeting the demand from its membership for more accessible and relevant information.

Another avenue that the organisation is exploring is the use of social networking sites.

"Moving forward we want to maximise our membership network with online offerings to complement and supplement platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter," Mr Curry revealed.

A recent study conducted by Confex and the AEO in conjunction with events industry market research company Vivid Interface found that exhibition organisers intend to increase their online marketing spend for consumer shows by 36 per cent over the next year.

In 2008, businesses spent 25 per cent of their budget on web-based promotions, compared to 75 per cent offline. Going forward, these proportions have been revised to 66 per cent offline and 34 per cent online.

Websites are the largest area of investment, with exhibition organisers expecting to spend 38 per cent of their finances on these, while email comes second with 20 per cent.

In a measure of the increasing diversity of online marketing platforms, businesses expressed their intention to boost budgets for podcasts, blogging and viral email campaigns over the next year.

As for trade shows, the proportions of offline and online spend are even closer, with exhibition organisers saying they expect to allocate 41 per cent of their finances to web-based activities, compared to 59 per cent of traditional marketing avenues. This represents a 24 per cent rise in online spending.

Once again, websites and email dominated the online budgets for trade shows, with blogging and search engine optimisation seeing an increase in allocations.

Exhibition organisers also said that online marketing activities represented the most cost-efficient strategy, with 92 per cent seeing this as the best commercial option for trade shows and 74 per cent for consumer events.