More than nine million people are employed in online advertising across Europe, while the sector generates around €22bn for the EU economy.
These are some of the findings of a new study on the economic impact of the online sector released at a high-profile summit in Brussels on Tuesday.
The summit, organised by the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance (EDAA), was told that some €48bn is invested annually in Europe in online advertising - €31bn of this generated by publishers.
Additionally, nearly one third of all advertising revenue is generated online.
Daniel Knapp, a senior director at global information company IHS, said the figures highlight the sector's importance to the overall EU economy.
This had been particularly important, with many EU economies still struggling to recover from the economic downturn.
Some sectors, such as the newspaper industry, rely heavily on online advertising as a source of revenue, he pointed out.
Knapp said, "Just a few years ago, the economic impact of this industry was a fraction of what it is today. This vital contribution to economic growth should not be underestimated but it is just part of the story because online advertising also stimulates demand for products."
The study also shows that after television, online advertising enjoys the second largest share of the advertising market and predictions suggest that by 2050 it will overtake TV.
The research also shows, however, that there is a skills shortage that potentially could stem future development.
"Staff with digital skills are hard to come by and currently there is a 62 per cent shortfall of those with data-related skills," noted Knapp, who was speaking at the summit's opening session on “responsible advertising in the digital age.”
Summit attendees heard about the success of a self-regulatory programme for the online behavioural advertising (OBA) industry, initiated by the EDAA and efforts to further promote this.
Also known as interests based advertising; OBA tracks a user's online activity, such as websites viewed, and then delivers advertising or marketing content that matches that activity.
Kevin Mullen, director of Advertising Compliance Solutions Company TRUSTe, said this consumer awareness programme had proved successful.
But, he said there is still work to be done to make consumers better aware of the 'OBA icon', an interactive symbol that links consumers to an online information portal.