Number of Online Ad Creatives Soars

Lower production costs, faster development times, and more flexible ad delivery systems for online advertisements are causing a proliferation in the number of creatives being used by Internet advertisers, according to a report by AdRelevance.

The latest technique from leading online advertisers such as and MSN is to develop two or three hundred creatives in order to establish a memorable campaign, the report found. AdRelevance found that the 10 largest portfolios in the fourth quarter of 1999 consisted of an average of 291 different ads, with first-place finisher launching 360 unique ads.

While many advertisers have large portfolios, the average number of creatives is eight, and almost half of all advertisers are using less than two unique ads. The number of unique creatives in an advertising campaign varies by industry, with automotive companies generating an average of 15 banners per campaign compared with only five banners for consumer goods.

Largest Campaigns Based on Unique Creatives
Rank Company Unique
1. 360
2. MSN 330
3. 320
4. MatchLogic 300
5. Ubid 280
5. Computers4Sure 280
6. NextCard 260
6. X10 260
6. The Washington Post 260
6. 260
Source: AdRelevance

The most expansive portfolios do not garner the most impressions. Automotive companies averaged nearly 400,000 impressions per banner, whereas telecom companies, with half as many creatives in their portfolios, garnered three times as many impressions for an average of 1,179,000.

According to AdRelevance, the number of new online ads seeking eyeballs every week is an impressive 6,000, or about 850 new ads every day. This data suggests a level of experimentation online that is not affordable in the traditional media, said Charles Buchwalter, VP of Media Research at AdRelevance.

“Both our hard data and the research we’ve done with agencies suggest that advertisers view the Web as an opportunity to experiment with new branding strategies,” Buchwalter said. “Advertisers feel that larger portfolios increase the odds that at least one of their ads will be effective. By casting a wider net, they can reach consumers who haven’t traditionally been part of their core demographic. Production and placement costs in traditional media make this prohibitive, but on the Web it’s half the reason for being there.”

As the number of online ads expand, however, advertisers face the challenge of keeping their creative portfolios compelling, memorable, and fresh. One method for avoiding the high costs of custom photo shoots is to use royalty-free stock photography, which facilitates quick turnaround time without sacrificing professional production values. But since advertisers aren’t given exclusive rights, royalty-free stock photography can also diminish the distinctiveness of an ad.

In its report, AdRelevance found one stock photography model who has been featured in ads for Charles Schwab, General Mills, and Volvo. The model has been the subject of credit problems, allergies, coughs,and privacy policies.

“Advertisers have to find a balance between brand identity and budget-consciousness if they expect to see a return on investment,” Buchwalter said. “Turning to stock photography and other cost-cutting measures is a smart way to avoid excessive production costs, but only if advertisers keep an eye on what other companies are doing. You can’t distinguish your brand in a crowded marketplace if your ad portfolio looks exactly like everybody else’s.”

Average Number of Unique Creatives by Industry
Industry Number of
Average per
Automotive 72 1,000 15
Hardware & Electronics 131 1,600 13
309 4,100 13
Web Media 1,384 14,000 10
Telecommunications 165 1,500 9
Retail 1,304 11,300 9
Software 222 1,400 6
Travel 246 1,400 6
563 2,600 5
Business to business 676 3,400 5
Total 5,072 42,600 8
Source: AdRelevance

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