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Top Advertisers Using Online More

Top traditional advertisers have begun to finally make online advertising a noticeable part of the media mix, according to new research by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Looking at ad impressions for 2002, the researcher found that the top 100 traditional advertisers' share was 30 percent. Two years ago, the top 100 made up just 15 percent.

AOL Time Warner and Microsoft led the way, posting large increases in their ad impressions for their much-hyped launch of competing Internet service offerings, AOL 8.0 and MSN 8. AOL Time Warner increased its online ad impressions 28 percent from a year earlier. Microsoft's impressions increased 8 percent. (Nielsen//NetRatings does not tabulate house ads.)

The auto industry was another key sector increasing ad impressions. With research by J.D. Power & Associates showing that 82 percent of auto consumers research their purchases online first, Web publishers have hungered for a larger share of the auto industry's $14 billion of annual marketing. Slowly, that wish might be coming true.

Ford increased its ad impressions 34 percent and Daimler Chrysler's impressions skyrocketed 407 percent.

"No longer dominated by the small dot-com companies, traditional business model advertisers are staking their claim," said Charlie Buchwalter, Nielsen//NetRatings' vice president for client analytics. "This increased usage by the heavy hitters of advertising clearly signals their recognition of the validity of the Internet as an effective medium."

The traditional advertisers were heavy users of newer ad technologies, with 82 percent using Flash and 80 percent using large ad formats.

The drive to convince traditional advertisers of the efficacy of online advertising has been a constant mantra for the industry since the dot-com meltdown. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has sponsored a series of case studies looking at the power of cross-media campaigns, especially when they include online as a 10 to 15 percent part of the mix. Even with the gains Nielsen//NetRatings reported in ad impressions, online advertising still makes up about 2 percent of most advertisers' budgets.

The Nielsen//NetRatings research follows up on a report it issued a month ago about the online advertising habits of the Fortune 500. In that study, it found more than half the group ran at least one online ad campaign during the year, up 6 percent from 2001. While encouraging, the report highlighted the continued weakness of online advertising from key sectors, such as auto, pharmaceuticals and consumer package goods.

For example, while Ford and Daimler Chrysler posted impressive percentage gains, neither company made the list of top 10 Fortune 500 advertisers, despite spending about $4.4 billion on advertising and marketing last year, according to Ad Age.