This research is based on perceived rather than actual behaviour. Portals, ad networks and specialist niche sites all contribute to online campaigns at every stage of a consumer’s online journey to purchase, but the key is to look at the complete picture rather than measuring each channel in isolation.

Different sites have different roles in the conversion process, and the effectiveness of one channel should not be evaluated solely on whether it is the last exposure to that ad.

The Atlas Institute has shown that when it comes to paid search conversions, customers exposed to display ads beforehand are 22% more likely to purchase. Display ads reinforce brand awareness to the point that about 60% of all paid search clicks by consumers are a single brand keyword.

This is about not simply asking converters which ad they remember seeing but analysing every single impression, click and interaction that happened over a much wider period (often up to 90 days).

The benefit of portals is that they offer a combination of both niche and broad content, and targeting capabilities mean the advertising on these portals is becoming more relevant to the consumer.

Kieron Matthews, marketing director at the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB)

I can watch something on TV, surf the web and listen to my wife brief me on the weekend’s activities all at the same time, so why then does my wife give me grief for not paying attention to her? I don’t acknowledge the conversations, say: “Yes, Amanda” or even nod. But come Saturday, I know what we‘re up to.

The same is true of display advertising, which is often measured and bought based on a demonstration of attention – invariably the click. Just because a visitor doesn’t click doesn’t mean they haven’t been engaged by that ad at some point. In fact, a recent IAB study shows that, of those visiting a website after seeing display advertising, roughly one in four will visit straight away, while the remainder will visit within the next three to four weeks.

Of course, exposure from other media channels also plays a part, but the data suggests that display advertising has a latent effect and could be credited with generating more traffic than first thought. Have I got your attention, advertisers?

Mattias Miksche, Chief executive of Stardoll

This report concurs absolutely with our own experience, and indicates a pressing need for advertisers to look closer at their online media strategy in 2010.

As our network serves a highly focused demographic on a massive scale (80 million+ users under the age of 20), we’re seeing increasing levels of investment from marketers aiming to create brand communities to build relationships with their customers for the next 50 years and beyond.

Niche websites deliver a better return on investment because they are more trusted and more relevant to many consumers. This translates into average response and engagement rates several times higher than those found on large generic websites.

The media buying model of the past 15 years is looking increasingly out of touch with today’s consumer behaviour, where the real-time web means a consumer can bypass search engines and portals entirely, and find what they are looking for through trusted recommendations from people they know.