Monday, November 17, 2008

Flat is the new up: outrunning the ad bear

There's well worn camper's humor about being able to outrun a bear in the wild. If you and your fellow campers encounter a bear, you don't have to outrun the only have to outrun the other campers.

Beyond the official decrees of economists, there are some data points in online ad revenue that may indicate that the ad bear is in the campground. The guys at TechCrunch have, well, crunched the data and it's soft: 3rd quarter revenue at the big four online ad companies (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL) is up just 6 tenths of a percentage over the second quarter (see the chart below):

(chart via TechCrunch)

So what?

One can certainly argue that all growth must slow at some point: afterall, there are only so many ads that can be served to long tail attention spans limited by the 24 hours in everyone's day...but another obvious correlation is the rapid descent of overall economic growth over the last 4 quarters.

And if the most-measurable-of-results ad formats are flattening so rapidly, one might expect the electionless 1Q09 to hold dire results for more traditional forms of consumer dollars become scarcer commodities, cost-pressured marketing dollars can be expected to make their way to performance-based advertising...and if performance-based advertising is flat, it may at least outrun the slower CPM-based ad campers.

So as the ad bear approaches, marketers may do well to remember the importance of being able to measure results against their advertising...anything that looks like an assertion built upon an assumption may look like lunch for the ad bear.

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