Speak to any brand owner in the know and they'll tell you the latest front to open up in the advertising war is in cyberspace.

Of course above-the-line activities particularly in TV remain of huge importance but increasingly they're backed up with significant presences in digital and social media.

Take Coca-Cola, 2010's top spender, which has been flexing its sizeable muscles online of late. Coca Cola Enterprises actually pruned its ad spend in traditional media by 6.6%, choosing to divert more budget to cyberspace.

"TV is obviously still very important when it comes to promoting our brands, however, many of our recent advertising campaigns and promotions have also utilised online facilities such as Facebook and YouTube more," says a spokeswoman.

The brand has heralded its site Coke Zone, which offers Coke drinkers access to exclusive content and rewards, providing a valuable point of interaction with the brand's consumers. A roaring success, it has allowed it to break out of the traditional stop-start cycle of conventional media campaigns and build loyalty.

But with new media comes the need for new skills to be developed. Experts say that the role of brands online has evolved to one more like that of content editors who need to provide a plethora of experiences and touchpoints for their consumers.

Of course, Coke is not alone in the rush to gain greater clout online. GlaxoSmith­Kline has taken an active approach to social media with several of its brands. Lucozade Energy has teamed up with digital music service Spotify, offering consumers the chance to win unlimited free music and has promoted this on-pack. GSK has also been providing expert health advice via social media on how to give up smoking, in support of Nicorette and Niquitin.

Unilever, which has increased above-the-line spend for a number of its brands, has also been upping its commitment to social media. It was one of the European launch partners for Apple's iAds mobile advertising platform, which it has been using to promote Lynx and Knorr.

"The drive to understand return on investment in social media is really important," says Unilever UK & Ireland marketing VP Matt Close. "One of the challenges is to work out the impact of consumer engagement. That's something we need to do more work on as a company and as an industry."

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