Credit Card Companies Up Online Advertising

As the holiday season draws near, financial services companies are bucking the trend and increasing their online marketing spending — providing some hope for a turnaround.

Indeed, a new study from Jupiter Media Metrix’s AdRelevance service suggests that consumer credit advertising has risen to 15.4 billion quarterly impressions — a 93 percent increase from the beginning of the year.

Additionally, credit card companies’ ads are rapidly coming to comprise the vast majority of financial services ads on the Web. On Yahoo!, for instance, consumer credit card advertising represented about 66 percent of the total financial services ad spending.

“It’s understandable that the significant growth of online advertising for credit services coincides with a softening economy and the approach of the holiday shopping season,” said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at Jupiter Media Metrix. “Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that credit-card companies are aggressively working to increase their customer base and encourage more spending, while credit-counseling services are simultaneously seeking to reach people trying to get out of debt.”

Exactly how that relates to other industries is unclear, but studies from the Interactive Advertising Bureau/PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Competitive Media Reporting’s online unit have found that financial ads comprised only about 13 percent of online advertising during the first half of the year, behind retail (20 percent) and media (14 percent).

With most segments of the economy reeling (barring, perhaps, producers of consumer staples), it’s likely that when IAB and CMRi issue new studies, they’ll find that financial services advertising is one of the industry’s top segments. Whether that will translate into permanent gains, or just represent a cyclical tendency, remains in question as well.

At any rate, the Web portals proved the primary beneficiaries of the credit card companies’ increased spending. Yahoo! hosted about 5.7 billion impressions, or 37 percent of the sector’s advertising. published about 1.2 billion impressions (7.8 percent of the sector), while AOL Time Warner’s ran about 532 million impressions (3.5 percent).

Of the credit card companies advertising online, Providian Financial’s (advertising its Visa Smart Card) was the leading consumer-credit advertiser, and also the top overall financial services advertiser during the third quarter, purchasing a total of 5.6 billion impressions.

According to AdRelevance, those figures also eclipsed Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the previous top spenders in the financial services sector. Those two companies bought a total of 4 billion impressions during the first half of the year. The next two biggest spenders in the financial services arena were Citigroup, with 2.0 billion impressions, and Datek, with 1.9 billion impressions.

“Credit offerings are an ideal way for financial institutions to attract new online consumers because they appeal to people who have significantly less online tenure than those interested in services such as online banking, bill payment and brokerage offerings,” said James Van Dyke, research director, Jupiter Media Metrix. “As a result, online advertising is still an effective strategy for financial services companies to grow their customer bases.”

Visa- and MasterCard- affiliated banks alone are responsible for 74 percent of consumer credit advertising this year, according to the study. Credit counseling and reporting companies (such as and made up a total of 21 percent of the sector’s advertising.

News Around the Web