"If you look at the growth rate for online display advertising just doesn't look good," Fulgoni noted, citing the recent Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Internet Advertising Revenue Report for the fourth quarter of 2008. But that top line finding is misleading, Fulgoni added, citing a comScore analysis of the IAB data, which shows that ad spending on traditional, static online display ads such as banners actually is growing, not waning during the downturn.
After "peeling back the onion," Fulgoni said comScore's team found that the real hit in the so-called "display" business has been for "rich media" formats, which declined 19% during the fourth quarter.
"The banner actually increased in the fourth quarter," Fulgoni said, citing an 8% rise in the online industry's standard static advertising unit.
Fulgoni speculated that the main reason for rich media's decline is that marketers are opting for "cheaper media," and traditional banner ads are just a bigger bang for the buck. When asked then why online video advertising continues to rise, Fulgoni said it likely is because it's coming off a "smaller base" of total ad spending, and because marketers are more willing to experiment with the emerging medium.
Economic trends aside, Fulgoni indicated there is a more fundamental, underlying shift taking place in the way some big marketers - especially consumer packaged goods marketers - are starting to think about online advertising, and that the availability of better, more precise analytics and metrics showing the affect online advertising has on offline sales is beginning to alter their communications mix.
Fulgoni, who before founding comScore was the head of consumer product scanner data tracking firm Information Resources Inc., said the availability of the new data and insights will lead to a reallocation of budgets to online media. He even cited a recent white paper released by comScore online audience measurement competitor Compete, which he termed a "nice study," revealing the "power of search on [consumer packaged goods marketing]."
Fulgoni implied, however, that that market is still largely untapped, and that "there's a gold mine here" for the companies who figure out how to mine the data.