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Social Networks Dominate in Online Display Ads

Social networking ads
Social networking sites earned more than 20 percent of all display ad views online, with MySpace upsetting Facebook by ranking first, according to a study issued by comScore on Tuesday.

The report also revealed a strong showing by wireless carriers in the list of advertisers using social networks for promotional content.

MySpace beat out rival Facebook for the month of July with 30 million ad impressions and a 9.2 percent share of the display ad market. That compares with Facebook's 26.8 million ad impressions and an 8.2 percent share of display ads.

However, in the number of unique visitors exposed to display ads, Facebook placed first with 67. 3 million unique visitors, while MySpace had 64.4 million, according to the comScore data.

Together, MySpace and Facebook combined to deliver more than 80 percent of ads among sites in the social networking category.

"Over the past few years, social networking has become one of the most popular online activities, accounting for a significant portion of the time Internet users spend online and the pages they consume," Jeff Hackett, comScore senior vice president, said in a statement.

"Social networking sites now account for one out of every five ads people view online. Because the top social media sites can deliver high reach and frequency against target segments at a low cost, it appears that some advertisers are eager to use social networking sites as a new advertising delivery vehicle," he added.

The news comes at a time when brands are increasingly looking to interactive marketing as a more affordable way to promote their brands compared to traditional advertising, with social media at the forefront of the trend.

So which companies are playing a key role in the emerging trend? The data suggests wireless carriers are on board, with AT&T (NYSE: T) ranked as the top display advertiser on social networking sites in July with more than two billion ad impressions. This accounted for 30 percent of the company's total number of display ads delivered during the month.

Sprint (NYSE: S) placed fourth in the rankings, with 790 million ad impressions, or 26 percent of the total number of display ads delivered for July. Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) was tenth, with 435 million ad impressions, a 10 percent chunk of its display ads for the month.

Wireless companies aren't the only ones trying to leverage the reach of social networking sites. Online gaming and quiz companies as well as credit score firms are also well represented.

Experian Interactive, which delivered a heavy rotation of ads for educational degree programs and credit scores, ranked second with nearly 1.3 billion impressions in the category.

Two of the top 10 advertisers on social networking sites in July delivered the vast majority of their impressions within the category. Pangea Media, which primarily advertises a variety of love and celebrity quizzes, delivered 90 percent of its ads on social networking sites, while online gaming provider Zynga delivered 97 percent of its ads on these sites.

"Social media is becoming an increasingly attractive vehicle for major advertisers seeking to optimize campaign reach and frequency and smaller advertisers desiring to reach a highly targeted audience," added Hackett. "As social networking sites innovate on their existing ad offerings, the category should continue to grow in ad volume, while CPMs could also increase if the sites can demonstrate a high campaign ROI."