Volume Up, Click-Throughs Down in Q4 ’03 Serving Report

DoubleClick’s fourth quarter 2003 ad serving report found increases in both the volume of ads served and the rich media share of those ads, but click-through rates fell to new lows.

The number of units DoubleClick served during the fourth quarter increased 43 percent over Q3, from 172 billion to 203.8 billion, the highest level since 2001. Click-throughs, meanwhile, declined 45 percent to 40 percent, a drop the company attributes to the jump in volume.

“The more ads consumers are exposed to, the lower the response rate,” the report’s authors wrote.

Rich Ad View-Throughs Strong
The report didn’t dwell on the plummeting click-through rate. Rather, it played up the continuing strength of conversion or “view-through” rates, defined as a user taking some action within 30 days of viewing the ad.

Conversions were highest for rich media ads, which grew to nearly 40 percent of all ads served by the company; a 60 percent increase over the same period a year ago. Rich media’s rate of post-impression activity was 1.11 percent, versus .43 percent for non-rich media; and post-impression sales based on that activity were 2.3 percent, versus 1.47 percent for non-rich media ads. The data support the theory that rich media boosts both branding and sales.

The Growth of Rich Media
Period % of Total Ad
Impressions Served
Q1 2002 17.3%
Q2 2002 19.3%
Q3 2002 23.2%
Q4 2002 24.9%
Q1 2003 27.8%
Q2 2003 31.7%
Q3 2003 36.6%
Q4 2003 39.7%
Source: DoubleClick

“We continue to see that rich media generates exceptional results, especially when we analyze its latent impact on conversion,” said Doug Knopper, DoubleClick’s senior VP of advertiser and publisher solutions.

It should be noted while rich media conversions are strong, click-throughs on Flash and other animated ads shared the same fate as non-rich units. Rich media clicks declined each quarter in 2003. The drop was especially precipitous from Q3 to Q4 (down 26.6 percent).

Leaderboard Advances
Over 11,000 different ad sizes were served during the quarter, Doubleclick said. Clear leaders were the banner, the leaderboard, skyscrapers and large rectangles, in that order. While the standard 468 x 60 banner continues to dominate, the leaderboard usurped the skyscraper’s #2 slot. Even so, use of skyscrapers rose 20 percent over Q4 ’02, while large rectangle adoption doubled.

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