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A Tale of Two Subcategories Food & Beverage and Personal Care
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A Tale of Two Subcategories Food & Beverage and Personal Care

Ken Cassar

I found myself at our client meetings last week in San Francisco, Seattle and LA, repeatedly making the point that CPGs had been increasing their online ad spend. This was based upon conversations that I’d been having with folks in the CPG space and the intense interest that we’ve been seeing lately from CPGs in online advertising. As I had a few spare minutes today, I checked AdRelevance to make sure that I was right about this. I was relieved to see that online ad impressions among Food and Drug and Personal Care categories had indeed increased by 32 percent over the past 12 months (Oct 06 – Sep 07 compared with Oct 07 – Sep 08). Interestingly, there is a big difference in the growth between the two big subcategories within CPG. In the most recent 12 months, impressions did not grow relative to the same period in the previous 12 months in the food and beverage category. In personal care, on the other hand, impressions grew by 87 percent.

What happened? Well, when we dig into the data, we see that it’s mostly a story about a few big advertisers significantly curtailing their online ad budgets with many others showing modest increases. During the two periods that we measured, Coca Cola’s ad impressions dropped from 276 million impressions to 50 million. Miller Brewing’s impressions dropped from 184 million to 52 million. On the personal care side, though, we saw the big advertisers generally keeping their impressions up.

Is this about personal care, or about food and beverage? I don’t think so. I think that it’s mostly about the immaturity of the media in tough economic times. As one big advertiser pulls back, we’ll see many others plodding along with modest increases in the online ad budgets, reflecting even greater increases in the allocation of ad dollars to the Internet. Given the tough economic climate that many advertisers are going to be operating in, I think that this is the story that we’re going to be seeing for another year or two. Some big advertisers will scale back significantly, a rare advertiser will dramatically shift dollars to the Web, and many others will continue to execute a modest shift of dollars from traditional vehicles to Internet.