Study: Number of Online Ads on the Rise

The number of unique online ads is on the rebound this year, suggesting an industry recovery, according to Nielsen//NetRatings .

According to the research group’s AdRelevance unit, which examined unique ads run during the past 16 months, the industry had its lowest levels of unique advertisements in January 2002, with 52,530 ads.

But since then, the number of unique online ads has increased 33 percent, reaching a high of 69,838 ads last month. That’s also about 9 percent higher than in January 2001, and 1 percent above the study’s previously recorded high-water mark in March 2001.

“The burst of online ads over the last three months indicates that the online ad market is finding some new traction,” said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at NetRatings. “From the previous peak in March of 2001, the number of unique ads on the Web declined through the rest of 2001 to reach a low in January of this year. The downward trend during the past year has been reversed in just three short months.”

Part of that rebound is likely due to increased online advertising efforts by deep-pocketed traditional advertisers, who have been responsible for churning out record levels of new ads since January.

Offline marketers represented the top 10 advertisers that have most increased the number of unique ads. For one, Columbia House led the trend by increasing its number of online advertisements 89 percent during the beginning of the year, going from 175 to 330.

Nestle USA followed closely behind, increasing from 128 to 214 ads. The U.S. federal government and USA Networks each increased the number of their ads by 60 percent, followed closely by Microsoft , Oracle and Verizon Communications .

Hewlett-Packard , Citigroup and General Motors rounded out the top ten, which together represented a 55 percent increase in unique ads.

While the study doesn’t take pricing into account — which would have thereby indicated whether publishers’ revenues are increasing alongside the growing number of ads — mainstream advertisers’ increased acceptance of the online channel remains a promising sign for the industry, Buchwalter said.

“Two years after the dot-com bubble burst in mid-2000, blue-chip companies’ adoption of the online medium appears to be accelerating,” he said. “Over the next 12 months, the significance of this development will be underscored if these increases in unique ads translate into sustained increases in online ad expenditures.”

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