Study: Ad Networks Generate Less Than A Quarter Of Impressions
Among ad networks, the Fox Audience Network generated 34.7% of impressions, followed by the AOL Advertising Network (23.4%), ValueClick (14%) and 24/7 Media (13.6%). The other 25 ad networks tracked by Kantar for the study collectively accounted for 14.3% of impressions. The figures underscore the concentration of buys among the top four ad networks. (The study did not include data from Google's AdSense network.)
The media research firm revealed the findings in connection with a new ad network tracking service it has added to its broader Internet analytics offerings. In addition to the 29 ad networks, the results reflect data collected from more than 4,500 sites ranging from premium properties to long-tail sites.
Based on reporting so far, Jon Swallen, senior vice president for research at Kantar, said he was surprised to learn that less than a quarter of impressions were coming through ad networks. And despite the proliferation of ad networks, Kantar found that more than half (56%) of advertised products used only one network, and only 17% used more than four networks.
"One network may encompass many sites, but in terms of going to a reseller or aggregator, the majority of advertisers are dealing with a single point of contact," said Swallen. The report also compared top advertisers on the publisher side and on ad networks.
The top marketers going the direct sales route included General Electric, with a 7.5% share of impressions, AT&T (6.9%), TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (3.3%), Artal Group (Weight Watchers) (2.9%), and Scottrade (2.4%).
Leading the way on the ad network side were Victory Records (10.8%), social games company Zynga (6.8%), Sprint Nextel (4.7%), and Privacy Matters (Free CreditReport.com) (4.1%) and AT&T (3.4%). In addition to AT&T, the three other advertisers overlapping the top 10 lists in both categories were Zynga, Verizon Communications and Privacy Matters.
Overall, more than 7,000 companies ran ads through ad networks, but just 10 companies accounted for 40% of all network-delivered impressions. On the publisher-direct side, the top ten companies accounted for only about one-third of all impressions.
Among 10 major industry segments, only "amusements and events" had a share of larger impressions generated by ad networks rather than from individual sites. Categories like financial services, consumer electronics, and cars and light trucks were all close to 90% on the direct sales side.
But within industry segments, Swallen pointed out there could still be wide disparities between competing brands. In February, for example, ad networks represented only 1.5% of AT&T's total impressions compared to 43.3% for Sprint. And Denny's relies almost completely on ad networks for advertising, while Domino's Pizza buys virtually all its ads directly from publishers.
One of the goals of providing the ad network data is to help publishers identify those advertisers, like Domino's, that avoid ad networks. "So for a publisher, those kinds of advertisers who want to pay full price in exchange for the benefits that confers, such as premium positioning -- that's a valuable prospect," said Swallen.