After Years of Turbulence, Internet Advertising Comes of Age?

Volatility may no longer be the watchword of online advertising, according to DoubleClick’s third quarter serving trend report.

“What’s most surprising is it’s no longer surprising,” said Kathryn Koegel, DoubleClick’s director of research and industrial development, who chaired the survey. “With such a new medium, we have often grown accustomed to big changes quarter to quarter. Now we’re seeing signs that things are stabilizing. Online marketing is now reaching a kind of maturity.”

As a case in point, Koegel referred to rich media holding steady at 43 percent of total ads served for the third quarter, a level it has consistently held for most of 2004.

Click rates, too, remained stable for rich media and non-rich media alike. Rich media ads have stabilized at 1.17 percent, a full five times the rate for non-rich media ads. Overall, the average click rate was 0.62 percent for the third quarter, an uptick of 11 percent from the second quarter.

However, beneath that outer layer of calm, some currents of change appear to be rippling. The standard 468 by 60 banner ad continues to account for the largest portion of online ads (25.2 percent). That figure marks a 4.8 percent decline from the second quarter figure. The wider leaderboard ad (728 by 90 pixels) has increased to 9.3 percent of all online ads served.

The report also measured the use of frequency capping at 16 percent of all online ads. With the current fascination with local search optimization capabilities and an impatience to be more precise with the user’s ad experience, that number could as much as double in the next year, Koegel said.

Other advertising analysts agree. “There’s no doubt, frequency capping is bound to grow. How fast that will happen is somewhat of an open question,” said Gary Stein, an ad expert for JupiterResearch.

But not all analysts accept the notion that we’re beginning to see an online market that has passed beyond its toddler years. Derrith Landka, SVP of Millward Brown Intelliquest, for one, does not buy the stabilized “maturity” model touted by DoubleClick at all.

“To be honest, what I’ve been hearing from the media agencies we work with is the exact opposite,” Landka said. “They tell me they want a lot more fluctuation and experimentation in the types of ads and ad campaign techniques they can consider using. They’re willing to try, innovate and even fail. So, as for the big picture, it’s still storming.”

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