Traditional bricks and mortar companies rather than the dotcoms are driving online spend, Nielsen says.

AT&T Wireless Service was the leading online advertiser, increasing spend on the medium by more than 1,260%, according to the Nielsen/NetRatings study.

Other advertisers who increased their online budgets included drugs marketer Schering Plough, up 737% and credit group MBNA, up by 471%.

"What's happening is large companies in 2002 and 2003 were experimenting online. They've learned a lot and many advertisers know for a fact what works online," said Nielsen vice-president Charles Buckwater.

Daimler Chrysler increased its online spend by 461% while Safeway headed the retail sector with a 440% rise. Ameriquest Mortgages led the consumer loans market with a 226% leap.

Apollo Group topped the education sector with a 163% rise and News Corp. increased its spend in the entertainment sector by 133%.

Although traditional bricks and mortar companies only spend about 3% of their total marketing budgets online the signs are that the sector will continue to grow robustly.

The forecast is supported by recent figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers which show first quarter online ad revenues reached a record $2.3 billion (€1.9bn; £1.2bn), a year-on-year increase of nearly 50%.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff