As we continue to analyze and publish display trends for CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) from a seasonal perspective, it is interesting to reflect on what we have learned from both effective advertising and user behavior.

Last week, we published the Month over Month (MoM) CPM trends by exchange and there were some mixed signals between the different exchanges. In terms of the types of publishers and their respective MoM trends, the CPMs are more in line with the Google AdX overall trends with CPMs being down MoM.

We note in many of our posts regarding CPMs, that end of quarter prices are often inflated as particularly brand advertisers often rush to spend unused budget, artificially inflating the biddable inventory CPM levels.  Often advertisers may end up with a declining inventory costs comparing a last month of a quarter with a first month (i.e. Dec 2010 v Jan 2011)

Figure 1 shows the different publisher types compared against each other and Figure 2 shows actual numerical performance per Publisher type and how they trended MoM

Figure 1: Efficient Frontier US Client Publisher Type CPMs – January 2011

Figure 2: Efficient Frontier US Client Publisher Type Summary – December 2010  Blog9table1

January 2011 saw a decrease in all Publisher verticals, except commercial sites (a web presence for a specific business which also has ad space). Not only did CPMs decline MoM across the board but so did the CTR (click through rates) and thus the propensity of browsers to interact with the ad creatives.

Interestingly, both the number of sites and impression share of shopping sites increased proportionately slightly in January, possibly indicators consumers are still chasing bargains long after the official holiday season.

One of the most obvious trends occurred with the video publishers, whose CPMs declined 34% in January with a similar decline in their relative Impression share. Combined with the overall decline in CTRs, can we conclude that browsers have less disposable time in January than in the more holiday friendly month of December?

January is traditionally a “back to work/school” month, and many industries – finance, legal, real estate – start to get busier again after the holiday period. So while a December 23rd day in the office might afford the luxury of an employee checking personal email and forwarding You Tube videos to friends, a January 12 work day does not.

From an advertiser’s perspective, all of these trends are important to note as it relates to designing strategies to garner more volume and broadcasting their message at different times of the year. For example if you are targeting a user demographic that is more inclined to video sites, take advantage of the lower rates on offer.

If you are a direct response advertiser concerned about falling CTRs of your creative messages in January, look at it in the context of the overall season. The maybe test your current messages on gaming or finance sites specifically where the CTRs are more constant to gauge whether a mass creative overhaul is really necessary.

We will continue to look at these trends to give advertisers insights in how to best analyze and optimize their display marketing dollars.

Chris Jacob