Posted April 6, 2011 4:24 pm by with 0 comments

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Macquarie Capital has just published their Ad Tracker report for 1Q 2011 and believe it or not, it’s AOL that came out on top.

Twice per quarter, the company analyzes display advertising sales on the homepages of YAHOO, AOL, YouTube, and MSN. Looking at the data from the first quarter of 2011, AOL won the award for the most improved player.

The company had the highest proportion of Oversized/Custom ad units (ex YouTube) at 26%, and it also had the highest percentage of purely brand-focused advertisers (which we view as a positive indicator of ad quality).

AOL’s new Project Devil program didn’t make the splash they’d hoped for, but Macquarie says we should see more of these large interactive ads in the second quarter.

Yahoo had less Oversized/Custom ad units on their homepage, but was saved by auto advertisers who bought 31% of the total ads for the time period.

We estimate YHOO sold its login page ~24%+ of days during 1Q. This login page initiative is still somewhat underperforming our expectations, but the trend is positive and we believe it is also growing internationally. Based on this data, we expect YHOO’s 1Q display growth to come in slightly better than our 11.5% y/y growth estimate.

The report also called YouTube’s turn out “somewhat disappointing” in that they aren’t diversified enough to have a stable base of ads. 62% came from media companies and Macquarie thinks they would be better off if they could pull in more from the other categories.

MSN is slow and steady. The report says that they’re lagging behind Yahoo and AOL mostly because of their high proportion of “non-rich media ads on its homepage” which they see as an indicator of low quality.

Bottom line?

Taking seasonality into account, we continue to see solid growth and positive momentum for the display ad industry. We are maintaining our estimate of low double-digit display growth for the industry in 2011.

Would be better if they didn’t have the word “low” before double-digit but any growth is good growth, so we’ll take it.