Online ad spending: Steady march back to top

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Will online ad spending ever return to the dizzying peak of $8.1 billion hit in 2000? Eventually, but not until 2006 at least, according to projections from online researcher eMarketer.

While it may be a slow climb back, eMarketer's projections, which are benchmarked against Interactive Advertising Bureau/PricewaterhouseCoopers data, indicate steady growth. EMarketer estimates that online ad spending for 2003 will reach $6.3 billion, climbing to $7.2 billion in 2005. Categories expected to increase their share of online ad spending include automotive, pharmaceutical, financial services and retail.

There were signs of industry growth recently, as Internet advertising increased 12.2% to $1.5 billion in spending for the first quarter of 2003 compared to the same period in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The growth can be attributed, in part, to attempts by leading marketers such as McDonald's Corp. and Volvo of North America to boost online spending, and also to research that seeks to show how interactive increases the efficiency of the overall media mix.

Still, online ad spending levels pale by comparison to total U.S. ad spending, which is forecast to hit $248.25 billion this year, eMarketer reports. The total ad spending projection includes Internet, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, yellow pages and outdoor advertising.

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