Why are we behind?

Zenith Optimedia came out with its regular report on ad spending (coverage at AdAge, PaidContent, and MediaGuardian). Online will hit many milestones:

We predict internet advertising to pass three milestones over the next three years. We expect it to overtake radio advertising in 2008; to attain a double-digit share of global advertising in 2009; and to overtake magazine advertising in 2010, with 11.5% of total ad spend.

That will put online third behind TV (37.5% share) and newspapers(25.4%). Nothing surprising there.

What strikes me again is how behind the US is versus the UK and Europe. Says PaidContent: “Britain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are the only four places where online ads account for 15 percent or more of total spend, according to the TimesOnline. But Zenith’s projections say that will change by 2010, when the internet will comprise more than 20 percent in each of the same four markets and more than 15 per cent of the ad spend in ten other countries.” Adds MediaGuardian: “Internet ad spend is currently ranked behind radio globally but will surpass the medium’s share next year. In the more developed UK market digital ad spend passed radio last year.” Note that this occurs even though UK radio is better than US radio.

Why is the US behind? Is it that the national media markets in those countries are more competitive and thus, perhaps, innovative? Is it something about the culture of American agencies or advertisers — and if so, what? Is it the nicotine habit of TV upfront here? Is online just more of a pain to buy than upfront? The audience is shifting online faster than the advertisers. Online is more efficient and measurable and more competitive, thus less expensive. So tell me: why are we behind?

Your theories or, better yet, experience?