Delegates at the 2008 World Retail Congress last week were told print and television advertising are on the out, and the internet is the new medium for retailers to take advantage of.

“There has been a fundamental revolution in people’s media behaviour. Traditional advertising is finding it difficult to engage audiences. There is now a different relationship between the advertiser and the consumer,” said Alan Rutherford, CEO of Digitas Global.

According to Rutherford brands that rely on the traditional models of advertising will eventually fail. He said more than 86 per cent of the world’s internet users bought online last year. The average online shopper bought 14 times in the past year and traffic to retailer sites from online social networks was 40 per cent up over the same period.

Rutherford suggested that popular culture, entertainment and social networks were key elements in achieving consumer engagement in the new media environment, citing examples like the Nike Just do it, Dove Real Beauty and American Express The Members’ Project campaigns.

He said retailers needed to ensure they made the best use of online searching to make their brand communication faster and more relevant. He also said retailers should think very carefully about online communities.

“Very few brands are creating genuine reasons for people to hang out together,” said Rutherford.

One of those very few is Carlsberg which has developed a 3D virtual supermarket for use by a qualified online panel of shoppers according to Jan Hillesland, vice president, group sales and marketing at Carlsberg Breweries.

He claimed there was a correlation of 83-95 per cent between real and virtual shopper behaviour and that the software enabled Carlsberg to optimise sales through research-driven in-store marketing.  

US store Target is using combined media channels to engage their customers, such as ‘crawler’ adverts across the US TV premiere of The Incredibles movie, singer John Legend’s Live from Philadelphia album released exclusively through Target, ‘plug in and listen’ stands around towns for consumers to hear new music and an ambitious holographic cat-walk show in New York’s Grand Central station, said Chuck Herrig, VP creative director of Target.