WASHINGTON, DC: Scram outta the marketing fast lane, DigiGramps; there's a new kid accelerating down the superhighway! Über-kool dude Shopper Marketing!

That's the message - if not quite the vernacular - delivered today (Friday) in a report by Deloitte Consulting on behalf of the US Grocery Manufacturer's Association.

According to the study, America's fastest-growing medium isn't the internet, but 'shopper marketing' - an arena in which retailers and package-goods marketers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars, having doubled their expenditure in the past three years alone.

Although most practitioners have yet to agree on a definition of SM, let alone measure or administer their efforts, the activity has grown from 3% of the overall marketing budgets of the nineteen package-goods manufacturers surveyed in 2004 to 6% this year.

By 2010, manufacturers expect that percentage to reach 8% of marketing budgets.

Deloitte says the 21% compound annual growth rate in manufacturers' SM surpasses that of internet advertising (+15%); and is ten times the 2% spending growth projected for traditional media like TV, print and radio.

While retail chains are boosting SM expenditure even faster than manufacturers - at around 26% annually, according to the report.

Moreover, this is seemingly taking place at the expense of traditional media (according to the eight retailers surveyed), who collectively report an annual slip of around 1% in mainstream spend.

But don't confuse SM with trade promotions (cash paid to retailers by marketers, deductions from the cost of goods, special merchandising displays or features in store circulars).

On the contrary, Deloitte's survey actually projects a compound annual decline of 2% in such conventional trade spending.

So what does comprise shopper marketing?

Officially, Deloitte opts for the broadest (and vaguest) definition: "All marketing stimuli designed to engage the shopper, build brand equity and lead him/her to make a purchase while he/she is in 'shopper mode'."

Unofficially, however, the beancounter prefers a narrower definition that, for the purpose of analysis, omits practices such as trade promos and co-marketing from shopper marketing.

Which, when the decks are cleared, leaves instore media such as TV, floor or shelf ads as well as instore signage and displays.

And even at this narrowest definition, shopper marketing is still growing considerably faster than other categories of spending.

Of the 19 manufacturers and eight retailers surveyed, only 30% put primary responsibility for SM in their brand or marketing groups.

The remainder (45%) put it in sales; 15% within a market research or analytics group; while the remaining 10% divided it between groups or a specialized unit.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff