OPA Disputes Gloomy Ad Picture

Although several recent studies paint a depressing picture of the state of online advertising, the Online Publishers Association says its members saw an average 34 percent increase in sales in the second quarter compared to the same period last year.

The group found year-to-date revenue growing an average of 34 percent,
compared to 2001. Total revenue among member companies increased an average of 36 percent in the second quarter compared to 2Q 2001, with year-to-date total revenue jumping 34 percent.

The figures cited by the OPA, an organization whose members include NYTimes.com, Slate.com, the Wall Street Journal Online, and
USAToday.com, were gathered via a survey of its membership — a group which is understandably interested in presenting a more healthy picture of its prospects.

“The focus on industry-wide Internet ad sales figures masks the important trend we’re witnessing, which indicates that advertisers are seeking out strongly branded media sites for their online ad placements,” said Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the OPA. “Advertisers are beginning to realize that high-quality content sites, with their rich editorial environments and loyal audiences, provide significant return on media spending.”

The numbers stand in stark contrast to figures recently released by the
Interactive Advertising Bureau, which estimated that Internet advertising revenue for the first quarter dipped 18 percent from the same period in 2001, and slid 6.5 percent as compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

Although the IAB hasn’t yet released figures for the second quarter, the overall trend differs tremendously from that seen by the OPA.

The OPA has, in recent months, sought to distinguish its members —
generally stand-alone branded sites rather than portals like Yahoo! and
MSN — from the rest of the online advertising industry, releasing a report in late July detailing the Web’s branding power, which it said was even greater on well-known sites like those of its members. The study, in which branding researcher Dynamic Logic examined 300 campaigns, found placements on these sites generated a lift in unaided awareness of 27.5 percent, and an increase in message association of 32.6 percent.

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