OTTAWA — Will high-speed Internet prove to be the setting of “”the next golden age of advertising,”” as it was described Monday during a session at the Canadian Marketing Association’s national convention?

Two officials from Bell Sympatico.ca

made their case Monday at the Canadian Marketing Associatoin annual conference that now is the time to start putting more of their eggs into the online basket.

Sympatico general manager Jean-Philippe Gauthier presented figures to show that the Internet is now the third most often used medium in Canada, still preceded by television and radio.

“”More people are spending time on the Net than reading newspapers or magazines,”” he said.

Patrick Lauzon, Sympatico’s vice-president of sales business development, said less than two per cent of the advertising dollars spent in Canada are for Internet promotions, despite it accounting for 16 per cent of people’s media usage. By contrast, he said people spend 35 per cent of their media consumption time on television, but about 50 per cent of all advertising spending goes there.

“”There’s a dis-balance there,”” Lauzon said.

Besides the fact the Internet continues to increase in popularity, Gauthier said broadband Internet makes it not only possible to bring users Web experiences with more impact, but they can make the advertisements more memorable by incorporating video and sound.

Statistics show Web surfers will remember the brand of an Internet banner ad they pass 11 per cent of the time but will remember the brand from a streaming-video ad 41 per cent of the time.

A promotional video about the joint Sympatico-MSN Web portal, which is expected to be up and running by the end of spring, suggested high-speed Internet is ideal for advertising for a variety of reasons. It said people are more likely to pay attention to Internet ads than TV ads, partly because half of TV viewers leave the room during a commercial and 34 per cent change the channel.

Lauzon ran several demonstrations of the types of advertising that people will see when they visit Sympatico sites in the near future, such as movie trailers or a clip of chickens walking across the screen to promote a fast-food restaurant. Timing is key to this, he added: A restaurant ad would be likely to appear just before lunch, while a Friday afternoon would be a good time to put out a trailer for a movie’s opening weekend.

Gauthier said he’s aware Web surfers can be fickle and discouraged from Web sites that annoy them with unwanted advertisements. But he said efforts are ongoing to minimize that by having a variety of ads, surveys to gauge the ad-tolerance of online users, and by giving people the ability to close an advertisement or simply shut off the sound.

“”We’re trying to find a balance between what the user wants and what the advertiser wants, but it’s quite important for us to make sure that our user has a great Internet experience,”” Gauthier said.

Lauzon said more than 17 million Canadians now have access to the Internet, and almost nine million have access to high-speed Internet. He said the upcoming Sympatico-MSN Web portal will attract regular visits from 94 per cent of Internet users in Canada, representing more than half the population.

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