Record Web Ad Spend for First Half

The recession doesn’t exist on the Web. At least based on the momentum surrounding online advertising, which is back to it’s pre-downturn, every-quarter-sets-a-record pace.

Advertisers spent $12.1 billion on the Web during the first half of 2010, a record for a half-year period, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Spending climbed by 11.3 percent vs. the same period in 2009.

That spree was fueled by a robust $6.2 billion in spending during Q2, marking the second-largest revenue quarter ever tracked by the IAB/PwC (roughly $6.3 billion was spent during Q4 of last year).

The record-setting first half was also buoyed by a resurgent display market, which saw revenue surge by 16 percent to more than $4.4 billion.

While display roared back to life, online video — one of the few bright spots during the recession — continues to grow at a blistering pace. According to the IAB/PwC report, ad spending on digital video enjoyed its best quarter ever, jumping 31 percent vs. the first half of ’09. Still, digital video represented just 5 percent of online spending in Q2, according to the IAB/PwC.

Despite the health exhibited by display and video, however, search still accounts for the largest chunk of online ad dollars: 47 percent during the first half of 2010, per the IAB/PwC. Search spending grew by 11.6 percent to more than $5.7 billion for the first six months of 2010.

“With the strongest first half on record, 2010 has so far indicated that Internet advertising is back and better than ever,” said David Silverman, a partner at PwC. “While the recession clearly affected short-term growth in 2009, with double-digit growth in both search and display during the first six months of 2010, the long-term prospects continue to be strong.”

Despite the ongoing fragmentation in digital media and the rise of ad networks and exchanges, the top 10 ad-selling properties hauled in 70 percent of advertising revenue during the second quarter of 2010. During the same quarter last year, the top 10 players pulled in 71 percent of revenue, per the IAB/PwC.

The Web also continues to be favored by direct marketers — at least based on the categories that account for the largest totals of ad dollars. According to the IAB/PwC figures, retail advertisers accounted for 20 percent of online ad revenue during the first six months of 2010, while telecom brands totaled 14 percent and travel advertisers 7 percent.