As a result of higher seasonal ad spending, the fourth quarter is typically the strongest of the year for display advertising. But the latest report from Macquarie Securities analyzing home page ad trends suggests that display advertising at the end of 2012 improved in the prior quarter and year-earlier period, too. Overall, more than half (56%) of home page ads running across Yahoo, AOL, MSN and YouTube were oversized/custom units, compared to 45% in the third quarter and 43% in the fourth quarter of 2011. Macquarie uses these units as a proxy for display ad health because they tend to command higher CPMs than traditional ad sizes.
The report noted an increase in purely brand-focused (versus direct-response) advertising in Q4, at 67% of ads — up from 58% in Q3, and 59% a year ago. In terms of industry categories, media and financial services led the way, accounting for 18% and 14% of home page ads, respectively. Holiday promotions in auto, telecom, consumer electronics and retail also drove much year-end advertising.