SINGAPORE: A majority of marketers in the Asia-Pacific region will increase their online adspend in 2010, despite the fact many doubt the digital capabilities of their agencies.

Media, the industry title, partnered with Harris Interactive, the research firm, to survey marketing executives throughout this area.

Some 41% of participants were responsible for only one market, while 55% had regional duties and 18% were in charge of global communications.

By industry, 12% of respondents were drawn from the FMCG category, with travel and leisure and financial services the second and third most widely-mentioned sectors.

Overall, 91% of contributors reported that their company had performed in line with minimum expectations last year, while 43% had beaten their original targets.

Despite this, 56% of the panel were "pessimistic" about the potential trading climate this year, compared with the 7% who had a more positive outlook.

Paul Hu, director and head of marketing for Volkswagen's operations in China, said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects for 2010.

Maile Carnegie, regional manager of Procter & Gamble's Asian arm, also suggested that conditions would be challenging, but added that the market would be "stronger and less volatile" than in 2009.

With regard to their likely expenditure levels this year, 42% of those polled predicted that their marketing budgets would rise in 2010.

More specifically, 47% suggested that the broad investment behind their brands would increase, while 40% said the same for their media spending.

The internet is set to be one major beneficiary of this latter trend, with 80% of marketers planning to direct more resources to this channel.

However, 60% of participants will attribute less than 10% of their total communications outlay to the web, a figure that fell to 5% for a third of this group.

Improving company websites will also be a focus for over 30% of brand owners, while a quarter will heighten their use of online banner and search advertising.

Three-quarters of industry specialists will also place a greater emphasis on customer relationship management and public relations in 2010.

In terms of their actual outlay across all media, 11% of featured firms intend to direct more than $10m to communications this year, while around half pegged this amount at less than $1m.

When identifying their priorities for 2010, 49% of respondents said they would look to keep costs under control, while 54% hoped to improve the value for money they received from agencies.

Less than half of advertisers expected to hold pitches this year, reaching a high of 67% for creative duties and 45% for media responsibilities.

A majority believed their agencies handled a variety of different media well, but just 23% said they displayed a strong understanding of digital.

Jason Kuperman, Omnicom's regional vice president for digital development, said that many clients had made ill-judged moves into the new media space, with agencies often implicated in this process.

"Because of all the hype around digital, especially social media, I think some may have jumped into digital efforts that were not entirely thought through," he argued.

"Some agencies are still not providing ideal guidance on how to best use digital."

Data sourced from Media Asia; additional content by Warc staff