CNN Money highlights a possible booby trap for the online ad market: Troubled CountryWide Financial ranked fourth among top U.S. web advertisers in July; the mortgage company spent $34.8 million, according to Nielsen (PDF). Meanwhile mortgage site Low Rate Source ranked number one, spending $46.3 million. Writer Paul R. LaMonica draws the obvious conclusion — as the housing market continues to suffer, mortgage companies may pull back their marketing dollars, no matter what shape they’re in. He also notes that this isn’t the first time this kind of industry-specific worry has come up: Last fall, Yahoo blamed some of its woes on slumping auto and financial services ads, but those problems didn’t seem to affect its peers.
But just because it didn’t happen last fall doesn’t mean it won’t happen now, and it’s certainly worth contemplating what would happen if a major industry does indeed pull back from online. It’s also worth noting that two more of Nielsen’s top 10 advertisers can be thought of as mortgage-related: Experian, which came in third with a $43.4 million spend; and Privacy Matters, which ranked 8th and spent $16.9 million. Both companies tend to spend heavily on “check your credit score” ads, and in a market where people are no longer lining up to buy McMansions, they’ll presumably be less interested in figuring out whether their scores are good, Alt-A or sub-prime. CNN Money, Nielsen release (PDF).