Guide Sponsor - Jim Brigden, group MD, TradeDoubler

Jim Brigden, group MD, TradeDoublerThe internet is a great enabler, bringing together a billion consu­mers with hundreds of thousands of companies to interact and do business. Its growing influence shows no signs of abating, nor will it as a recessionary period looms. Whether or not this much-debated recession becomes reality, the self-perpetuating economic slowdown is very real, and this is where the internet as a marketing channel is well placed to continue to prosper.

As consumers are spending more time online researching, reviewing, discussing, making sure they make the right choices and finding the best deals, brand owners are reaping the benefits of interacting with this growing audience. Most online advertising, through display campaigns, search activity or affiliate marketing, is transparent and the cost-benefits clear; costs are only incurred when a pre-specified event occurs - true performance marketing.

In tough times, online marketing budgets will be the most justifiable spend in terms of measurable value and return on investment. And let's face it, when belts need to be tightened, marketing budgets are always the first under scrutiny. Online budgets are, in fact, set to increase and become the single largest advertising medium, even surpassing TV advertising budgets by 2010. But complacency will never be on the agenda as the networks, suppliers and agencies listed in this guide continue to innovate and drive more value from the relationships formed online. After all, marketing is all about relationships, engaging with consumers and guiding their experience to the desired end result and beyond that to a lifetime value.

Where will the smarter brand owners steal a march to engage with their consumers? How can the most cost-effective marketing get even better and generate more consumer interaction and response? There are already major developments happening in behavioural and contextual targeting, for example with the launch of our td AdMatch, to guarantee relevance and hit the consumer sweet spot - where the right consumers are engaged in the right place at the right time and at the right stage in the purchase process. Also dashboards like our td Integral give a holistic view of all digital marketing activity, tracking user journey data from research to click to purchase and analysing this to enable cross-channel optimisation for even greater performance and results. It's not unfeasible that this technology will eventually develop to address the 'last click wins' issue and reward proportionately for each stage a consumer goes through before tapping in their credit card details.

These are all developments that have already launched or are in progress here at TradeDoubler. One thing for sure is that the constant evolution of the internet and the opportunities it offers demand innovation and I'm sure that all the companies represented in this guide are more than able to step up to the challenge, with TradeDoubler leading the charge.