Special Report: Top 100 Banner Advertisers

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Heading BtoB's list of the top 100 Web banner advertisers are many of the names you'd expect: Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc (see related chart here). However, the No. 1 b-to-b online advertiser, ranked by total spending from September 1999 to August 2000, isn't owned by Bill Gates.

Soundly beating out Microsoft for the top spot was Network Solutions Inc., a domain registration company that spent $45 million on banner ads over the 12-month period. Microsoft ranked No. 2, spending $32.4 million. IBM ($8.5 million) was ninth and Sun ($7.2 million) was 10th.

The gaps in the top 10 are filled out by lesser-known b-to-b entities. Data management software company SkyDesk ($13 million) was third; Internet services provider Verio Inc. ($11 million) finished tied for fourth with promotional marketing services provider Marden-Kane Inc. (also $11 million), followed by DSL service provider NorthPoint Communications Group Inc. ($9.2 million), CRM services company MatchLogic ($9.1 million), and Internet and e-mail security software developer ZixIt Corp. ($8.7 million).

"The b-to-b companies spending the most money on banner ads include the usual suspects, plus those whose core business is directly tied to the Web," said Marc Ryan, director of media research for AdRelevance, a Jupiter Media Metrix company that provided the primary spending and impressions data for this special report. "The types of companies you'll find prevalent on this list are b-to-b enablers. They fall into five main categories: Web page design and domain registration, business technology, business portals, advertising agencies, and services and data communication."

Ryan said he found the presence of so many advertising companies on the list intriguing. "You've got MatchLogic and AdForce and others like them spending a lot of money on banner ads. And you have to realize that a majority of Microsoft's spending in the b-to-b space is" focused on its bCentral ad network, he said.

In addition to expenditures, banner ad impressions are another key variable used to evaluate the companies ranked. "By comparing impressions to spending, you can calculate a company's average cost per thousand impressions and discover that there are some major differences," Ryan said.

Verio and Sun, for instance, spent $15.28 and $14.40, respectively, for 1,000 impressions. "This means, more than likely, they are going for a broader reach by advertising on major portals," Ryan said. On the other hand, Dell's CPM was $48.57, "which implies they are being more selective about who sees their messages, and probably they are advertising on more niched, vertical portals," he said.

AdRelevance research has found that b-to-b ad spending tends to be more costly than that for other industries based on average CPM. The companies ranked in BtoB's list had an average CPM of $26.18. Ad rates for major portals such as MSN, Yahoo! and others are generally lower.

In total, the b-to-b category ranks fourth, behind Web media, retail and consumer financial services, in online advertising spending. The top 100 b-to-b advertisers on our list spent a total of more than $343 million combined during the 12-month period studied, buying approximately 13 billion impressions.

"We've been tracking b-to-b for a while, but in the past year, it's really come into its own," Ryan said. "And while it's true that click-through rates are at an all-time low, that doesn't mean online ad spending is wasted. It's just time for metrics that are more relevant than click-through, such as brand awareness."

Click-through, Ryan said, is quickly being replaced by other, more effective methods of generating leads, such as vertical portals, advertising in vertical b-to-b publications and e-mail marketing.

However, the new shape of ads to come-the 800-pixel-tall skyscraper, or avalanche, ad (see related story on Page 38)-has reportedly produced higher click-through rates. "It's an interesting trend, and more and more sites are now including this ad size on their rate cards," he said. "Unlike standard banner ads, the skyscraper is hard to ignore, plus it gives advertisers more room to get across their message."

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