Last week DoubleClick launched its 2008
Year in Review Benchmarks
, an impressive piece of work looking at the
performance of online advertising primarily in the US market.

The data was
collected throughout 2008 and covers “hundreds of advertisers, thousands of
campaigns, and tens of billions of ad impressions.”

However, it could have been so much more useful to the UK online advertising industry.

Some of the findings are unsurprising. Bigger ad placements work better than
smaller ads. Video works better than non-video ads.

Others are less intuitive. Flash ads have a slightly lower click through
rate than static image ads. Video ads from the automotive sector have the
highest completion rates – so we like seeing videos of cars. But video ads from
media and entertainment companies have the lowest completion
rates – so entertainment isn’t especially entertaining.

As you’d expect, there are benchmarks aplenty:

  • Average click-through rate from online advertising across all formats:
  • Average click-through rate from static images: 0.11%
  • Best performing ad size: a 240×400 ‘vertical rectangle, which delivers a
    0.37% CTR
  • Most responsive industry sector: a dead heat between automotive and health on

All good stuff, but this is all US-only data. Yet DoubleClick collects data across the globe, and we know this because it gives a tantalising glimpse
of comparative CTRs across twenty markets. (By the way, the CTR on UK online
advertising is pretty much the lowest in Europe – so much for our highly
advanced digital industry!)

So what do we really want from DoubleClick?

Three things would make this
report essential reading in the UK and really help the industry.

Firstly, we need equivalent UK data across this entire set of benchmarks. Not unreasonable, since we are after all the second-most important online advertising

Secondly I’d like to see a way to cross-reference the different data
. I want to be able to drill down into a particular sector and look at
benchmark CTRs on different ad sizes or at the performance of different rich
media formats.

And finally I’d love to see some benchmark data on mobile advertising, which is a strange omission from this report.

Does all this really matter? Well yes it does. An absence of industry
benchmarks makes planning much more difficult. And display advertising is in direct
competition for budget with paid search, which, even allowing for the
short-comings of the planning tools, offers infinitely more granular forecasts
down to keyword level.

This week The
Guardian quoted Tim Cadogan
, the chief executive of Open X, saying that
there are around 700 advertisers worldwide who “routinely buy online display
advertising”, compared with the 1.5 million companies who buy search keywords. 

Google’s stated objective is to grow the online display market, and one good place
to start would be by applying a firm boot to the fleshy backside of DoubleClick
and asking them to deliver a full set of global benchmarks.