The Return of the Ad Network

The resurgence of Internet marketing is leading to the renaissance of an unlikely model — the humble online ad network. This time around, though, networks go beyond the banner-based, content-targeted model familiar to digital marketers.

The biggest recent news in the network arena was Google’s expansion last week of its AdSense contextual ad offering. The search giant added .GIF and .JPG banner capabilities, a move that makes its network of small to mid-sized sites look a lot like yesteryear’s traditional banner networks.

Meanwhile, behavioral marketing player Tacoda is building its own ad network to compete for search dollars. With AudienceMatch, Tacoda is mimicking the model popularized by Google’s AdSense and Overture’s ContentMatch, but it’s targeting by behavior rather than by context.

Recognizing the competitive threat from behavioral targeting and performance-based players, several veteran ad networks have also begun to expand the range of targeting options available to customers. 24/7 Real Media, one of the survivors of the network business, will debut its behavioral targeting capabilities next month. BlueLithium, which just launched in January, will announce plans to offer contextual targeting for its network next week.

With all the news in the network business, ClickZ decided the time was right for an overview. We contacted a number of major ad networks to obtain their pricing models, targeting methods, network profiles and other details. Of course, our overview undoubtedly misses some players. We’ve also decided to include one — aQuantive’s DrivePM — that doesn’t strictly meet the definition of an ad network, though it functions similarly from the advertiser’s perspective.

The result below:

The Return of the Ad Network
Network Pricing Targeting Network
24/7 Real Media Mostly CPM Contextual, will offer behavioral in June 2004 750 sites, approximately 50 of which are large sites IAB standard units, including rich media No CPA * Network includes Associated Press,, eUniverse
and KnightRidder
IAB standard units, including rich media No
CPA auction Behavioral, contextual and demographic The top 250 publishers, as defined by MediaMetrix site traffic IAB standard units, including rich media No, but is expected to develop
BlueLithium Mostly PPC; some CPM Contextual with next week’s launch of BlueTheory targeting Around 1000 sites IAB standard units, including rich media Yes, as of next week
Burst! Mostly CPM; PPC available for some campaigns. Contextual, with some demographic targeting Approximately 2,000 sites across 477 channels; mid-sized publishers represent the core of the network IAB standard units and text ads No
ClickAgents CPA * * IAB standard units, including rich media No
Fastclick CPM, PPC and CPA Contextual, by 18 content categories, as well as by geography, bandwidth,
daypart and other factors
6,200 active sites, mostly small publishers but large ones as well IAB standard units, including rich media yes, with limitations
Google AdSense PPC auction Contextual Thousands of small- to mid-sized publishers and a few large ones Text and banner ads Yes ContextTarget PPC auction Contextual, using topic matches Sites include, and Text ads, with the option of including a logo Yes
Max Online CPM Contextual Approximately 1,000 sites IAB standard units, including rich media No
Overture Content Match PPC auction Contextual Several large publishers (most notably MSN) and numerous verticals Text ads Choose from self or managed service
Tacoda AudienceMatch PPC auction Behavioral, demographic Predominantly large sites; full profile not yet released Text ads Yes
Tribal Fusion CPM, sponsorships Contextual, plus geotargeting and dayparting 700 publishers, with a wide reach IAB standard units, including rich media No
ValueClick Media CPM and PPC Contextual, by 17 channels; behavioral, geographic, demographic,day-part and other targeting options also available Portals, vertical sites and niche publishers; 120 million unique users per month worldwide IAB standard units, including rich media No

* = Not available at press time.

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