LONDON: Two new initiatives aiming to provide advertisers and agencies with more accurate online audience data in the UK could help tempt major brands to invest more heavily in this medium.

OMD, the media network, estimates that while £3.7 billion ($6.1bn; €4.1bn) is directed to brand advertising in the UK each year, the internet only takes around £180 million of this total.

The UK Online Measurement Company, formed by the Association of Online Publishers and the IAB, announced last month that it would work with The Nielsen Company to try and change this situation.

In January 2010, it will launch the UKOM Audience Planning System, based on a panel of 35,000 people, and aiming to provide the sort of reach and frequency metrics available for TV, radio and print.

Comscore, the research firm, also recently unveiled a rival offering, called Media Metrix 360, that will use a panel of 70,000 people, combined with records from 55,000 websites.

The company has stated that over 40% of the largest online properties in the UK currently use its tagging and "beacon" tools, and will release its first results at the same time as UKOM.

Ian Armstrong, manager of customer communications at Honda, argued there is a profound need to establish robust figures in this area.

"We've recently put foundations in place to make movements forward, but to make the most robust decisions we can, we need a currency with which to justify them internally," he said.

Similarly, Richard Brooke, communications buying manager at Unilever, added "when you're talking about transactional media, online has little competition. But the branding side is much more the space in which Unilever operates."

While platforms such as that offered by UKOM could lead to an uptick in online expenditure, Brooke further predicted that they will allow advertisers to take a more targeted approach.

"We've got the currency, we just don't know what it says yet. More information will lead to better decision-making. For some brands, that will mean more online investment. For others, it won't," he said.

Some observers have suggested that the UKOM–Nielsen service has certain flaws, as it does not include automated statistics drawn from servers, and thus neglects vital data.

More positively, David Walker, marketing operations and media controller at Kellogg's, said "we'll see this develop to become a more accurate and effective system over the next 24 months and it'll do the job for us."

He also argued it would overcome many of the self-imposed limitations employed by many clients, who have to base their digital media planning decisions on imperfect information at present.

"If we're going out blind, it's hard to justify putting more money into online. At the moment we're targeting it around programming – assuming people who watch The X Factor online are the same as TV audiences. But is that the case?"

Data sourced from; additional content by Warc staff