Digital & Direct: Orange boss urges total budget switch to online

Digital advertising carries 'a lot less risk' than costly TV ads, according to Orange brand director Justin Billingsley.

Speaking at the annual IAB Engage conference, held last week, Billingsley made the case for advertisers to transfer all their budgets to digital. He also accused 'archaic executives' of wanting to see their creative work on TV, thus holding back the inevitable shift toward online marketing.

According to Billingsley, Orange expects to be investing all its marketing budget in digital by 2012 and boost its digital spend by 20%-30% next year.

The brand is ramping up its social networking activity with trials of music and film widgets on Facebook and Bebo.

Orange faces challenges online - a Google search for 'Orange broadband' returned the forum Orangeproblems.co.uk as the fourth result - but Billingsley said: 'We should realise this is a privilege. We can see what the problems are and if we solve it, thousands of people know about it.'

He added that Orange was prepared to take risks: 'It is very hard to damage a brand like ours - like a supertanker.'

Sarah Messer, head of commercial research and insight at ITV, told delegates that its research had found that the same ad content could be more effective online than on TV. In testing, ads on itv.com generated a 40% recall rate compared with 17% on ITV1.

Other speakers were more cautious about embracing the online world, however. Andy Burnham, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, emphasised the need for self-regulation by online advertisers.

He warned that the discipline does not have the 'familiar anchors' that regulation has in the traditional media and said that 'norms' in online behaviour needed to be addressed to protect children.

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