BEIJING: The number of brands advertising on the internet in China rose dramatically over the last year, a new study has found.

According to CR Nielsen, the research firm, online display ad revenues in the country stood at 4.1bn yuan ($601m; €449m; £390m) in the first quarter of 2010, an expansion of 52.7% year-on-year.

The number of companies advertising on this medium increased by 36.2% to 3,626, with a total of 14,219 campaigns running during this period, an improvement of 33.8% compared with Q1 2009.

By sector, apparel brands delivered 720m yuan of total internet display advertising sales between January and March this year.

The automotive category followed in second place on 630m yuan, with the retail industry trailing in third on 440m yuan.

Elsewhere, the technology and FMCG categories also boosted their online budgets, but the real estate and entertainment sectors both reined in their outlay.

Toyota, the Japanese carmaker, posted the highest overall display ad expenditure in March on 36m yuan, ahead of 361 Degrees, the Chinese sportswear brand, on 32m yuan.

Internet display revenues climbed by 39% in China in 2009 as a whole, outpacing the rate of growth registered by television and newspapers, which enjoyed upticks of 13.9% and 18% respectively.

CR Nielsen also predicted that the web would benefit from a shift in budgets away from TV after the Chinese government introduced new rules limiting the length and number of spots that can be shown.

A study from Dentsu's Beijing office argued that the three main television channels operated by CCTV, the state broadcaster, had all increased their ad rates after these regulations came into force.

It estimated that the cost of advertising on CCTV1 had climbed by 85% since the start of 2010, a figure that reached 92% for CCTV2 and 100% for CCTV3.

Chen Gang, associate dean of the school of journalism and communications at Peking University, said this development would serve to put the internet in the "spotlight".

Data sourced from CR Nielsen/China Daily; additional content by Warc staff