Digitally Speaking, CBS, Time Warner, Disney Bigger Than Facebook

For all of Madison Avenue’s seeming obsession with popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the ilk, when it comes to actual media buys, they barely register among the top suppliers of “digital” advertising to the world’s biggest ad agencies. In a never-before-seen analysis of Madison Avenue’s digital supply chain, Google not surprisingly is the most dominant player, accounting for more than 40 cents of every digital ad dollar bought through the big agency holding companies compiled by Standard Media Index. Google’s dominance over the supply of digital advertising is so significant that it now ranks as the fifth-largest supplier of all forms of media to Madison Avenue, according to a recent analysis by SMI.

Following Media Daily News’ publication of that analysis, a number of readers asked how the suppliers rank in terms of pure-play digital advertising buys. Because of the way it codes all of the media buys processed through big agency holding companies, SMI was able to tease out the digital-only portion, showing that Google now represents 40.2% of all the digital ad buys made by the four holding companies -- Aegis, Havas, Interpublic and Publicis -- that currently provide their actual purchase data for compilation and analysis by SMI.

That makes Google significantly bigger than the next three digital suppliers -- Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft -- combined. That’s not that surprising. What is surprising is who ranks fifth. It’s not Facebook or any other digital pure-play, but Walt Disney Co., which holds a 5.4% share of the digital advertising bought by Madison Avenue, thanks largely to the premium value of properties like ESPN.com and ABC.com.

Equally surprising is the fact that the next three biggest digital suppliers -- Comcast, Time Warner and CBS -- are also bigger than any digital pure-plays. In fact, the contribution of Facebook, Twitter and any other of the rapidly emerging digital pure-plays isn’t even significant enough to break out, and SMI simply lumps them into “other.”

In fairness to those platforms, and even Madison Avenue’s biggest -- Google -- they derive a significant portion of their overall revenue, and much of their growth, from so-called long-tail advertisers, including small businesses that either buy direct or through small ad agencies not affiliated with the big agency holding companies. But when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, Facebook, Twitter and other seemingly dominant digital media companies aren’t much more than also-rans.

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