Study: Campaigners Aren't Testing

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Though the Internet is supposed to offer advertisers the luxury of highly targeted ads with relatively low production and placement costs, companies are not taking full advantage of testing creative, according to a report released this week by AdRelevance Inc., a Media Metrix subsidiary that tracks online advertising activity.

"Many companies are still [just] dipping their toes into the online advertising space to figure it out," said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at AdRelevance, Seattle. "Overall, online advertising was just 4 [percent] of all advertising in 1999, so the market is still in its infancy. Our numbers show that around 4,400 companies advertised online during the fourth quarter. Even those companies that tried a few creatives are way ahead of the many other companies that haven't done anything."

More than 5,000 companies participated in the study. Only 34 percent of online advertisers had five or more unique creatives in their portfolios in the fourth quarter of last year, according to AdRelevance.

"While it's a bit early to tell, we are betting that campaign size will inevitably drift upward as we move through this year," Buchwalter said.

The three industries with the highest number of unique creatives in an ad campaign are automotive with an average of 15 per company and hardware/electronics and financial services with 13 per company.

"There is a 100 [percent] correlation with those industries doing more creatives and those who've been trying the medium longer. When we started our service last spring, autos and [hardware] were the only industries we were consistently seeing advertising online and financial service was just behind them," said Buchwalter.

Meanwhile, the most expansive portfolios don't necessarily garner the most impressions, indicating that companies with more experience advertise more efficiently, according to AdRelevance.

"We believe it's inevitable that as people are on the Internet longer, and as they become more familiar with it - its strengths and weaknesses - that what they're going to inevitably do is learn that they can use the Internet to target more and more carefully," said Buchwalter.

Rounding out the top 10 industries using the most creative approaches are Web media with 10 creatives per company, telecommunications and retail with nine, software and travel with six, consumer goods with five and business-to-business with five. lead the number of unique creatives during the fourth quarter with 360. MSN followed with 330, and had 320. The top 10 largest portfolios, including these three, had an average of 291 different ads. But the average unique ads of all the companies who took part in the survey was only eight, and about half of all advertisers use less than two unique creatives.

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