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Online Ads Are Bigger, Richer

Internet advertising trends toward larger unit sizes and more rich media are continuing to develop, according to DoubleClick's second quarter ad serving report.

The ad technology company said that nearly a third of the ads it served in the quarter used rich media, up 14 percent from the previous quarter. DoubleClick defines rich media as any ad using Flash, pop-ups, interstitials, or Unicast and Eyeblaster formats.

DoubleClick also reported that ads reflected a growing trend toward larger units, with big sizes, such as leaderboards and half-page units, grabbing share from the standard banner. The standard 468 x 60 pixels banner was still the most prevalent unit, accounting for 42 percent of ads served, but it dropped 23 percent from a year ago. The skyscraper remained in the No. 2 position, with 9 percent.

The growth in rich media, averaging 10 percent per quarter, puts it in line to surpass static GIF and JPEG ads by 2005, the report said. Once separate from the online ad industry, rich media has become very mainstream.

"It's not too far-fetched to assume that the entire concept of rich media as a separate form of online advertising will cease to exist, as rich media becomes 'just advertising," DoubleClick said in the report.

The move to rich media is a sign that Web marketers have begun to use the medium for more than just direct response advertising. Publishers like Yahoo! have reported increasing success in bringing traditional advertisers into the fold with online campaigns aimed at brand building.

DoubleClick culled the data from its DART ad-serving platform, which served just under 150 billion ads in the quarter.

Flash dominated rich-media forms, accounting for 13.4 percent of all ads served. DoubleClick has close ties with Flash, having inked a deal with Macromedia to develop a rich media authoring, trafficking and reporting tool.

While advertisers continue to flock to rich media for branding, they might be disappointed by the difference rich media makes in direct response: Click-through rates for rich media declined 15 percent in the quarter to 1.87 percent. That response rate still dwarfs the anemic .34 percent DoubleClick recorded for static ads.

Still, DoubleClick found that rich media does leave an impression on consumers. Rich media ads are three times more likely to lead to a post-impression sale than static ads. Also, the report found that view-through rates, which measure some type of action within 30 days of viewing an ad, have continued to rise. However, the rates remain quite low at .63 percent, up just .02 percent from the previous quarter.

DoubleClick hopes to get a better hold on the effectiveness of rich media as a branding tool with its recently unveiled DART Motif, built in conjunction with Macromedia. Motif promises sophisticated multi-event reporting, which tracks user interactions with rich media ads. That functionality, however, will not be ready until November.