Analyst: Auto, Financial Ad Slowdown Could Hurt Digitas, aQuantive

In response to Yahoo's disclosure Tuesday of falling ad sales in autos and financial services, Merrill Lynch media analyst Lauren Rich Fine said that digital agencies aQuantive and Digitas--both covered by the brokerage house--also might face revenue challenges.

aQuantive generates about 15 percent of marketing services revenue from financial services clients, and 9 percent from a category that includes car manufacturers. Merrill Lynch estimated that aQuantive's overall revenue exposure in those two categories is about 5 percent, but added that it's not clear the digital marketing company will see an impact. "It is difficult to know if [aQuantive] will be affected and whether they have any client overlap with Yahoo," the report stated, adding, "knowing that the company has a diversified client base, we are not yet jumping to conclusions."

Digitas also has "significant exposure" because its two largest clients are GM, which accounts for 16 percent of revenue, and American Express, accounting for 25 percent, according to the report.



Yahoo's CEO Terry Semel told investors at a Goldman Sachs conference Tuesday that it had seen soft ad sales in the auto and financial services categories for the last several weeks. The news sparked investors to send Yahoo stock down more than 11 percent, while the broader Nasdaq fell around 13 percent.

The Merrill Lynch report called the news "quite concerning," but said it was difficult to know whether slower ad growth at Yahoo is due to overall industry trends or Yahoo's own market share loss.

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