Report: Search ads lift brand awareness

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IAB, nielsen//netratings research finds optimal online media mix includes search, display ads

Search ads and contextually targeted online text ads can have a significant impact on branding, according to research released last month by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Nielsen//Net-Ratings.

The report, titled "Internet Search Brand Effectiveness Research," studied the impact of search and contextual text ads on an array of brand metrics, including aided brand awareness, unaided brand awareness, brand image association and purchase intent.

The research was conducted among 10,500 Internet respondents and used three types of ads to test the impact on branding.

The first type of ad was a search listing result that appeared on a brand-neutral search engine. The second was a contextual text ad that appeared on an article page of a brand-neutral news site. The third was a public service announcement that was used as a control.

Top spot the tops

For the search listing results, when respondents were asked to name a specific leading brand within a tested industry, they were 27% more likely to name the brand displayed in the top search result spot than those in a control group who were not exposed to the ad.

"The brand metrics were highest for the No. 1 listing," said Marc Ryan, senior director of analysis at Nielsen//NetRatings. "You want your brand to be at the top of the list. It's all about being able to bid on position."

For contextually targeted text advertising, the text ads caused a 23% lift in unaided brand awareness among respondents who saw the ads compared with those who did not.

Contextual ads are offered by Web publishers that use programs such as Google AdSense, in which text ads are targeted to specific content pages.

"A lot of advertisers don't think about doing contextual ads, and it might be worth looking at," Ryan said. "This research suggests that the optimal media mix includes search and display ads."

Adam Gelles, director of industry initiatives for the IAB, said the results are significant because they demonstrate the branding power of search. "Search does brand, and as a result, it's an opportunity for marketers to really understand the landscape around their competitive set," Gelles said. "Usually, they think of online from purely a branding or purely a direct marketing perspective."

"B-to-b marketers need to look beyond the direct marketing value of search, and they need to think of it holistically," Gelles said. "They need to do it both for search listings on a particular page and for contextual listings. In both cases, we have seen definite branding value of these listings."

Targeting by context

In a separate report released last month by ad serving company DoubleClick, research found that the primary way ads are currently targeted is by context.

The DoubleClick second-quarter ad serving trend report found that of all ads served by publishers in the second quarter, 53.4% were targeted by keyword or key value, which is the means by which a publisher tags a page so that ads can be contextually served to it.

Other forms of ad targeting, such as geo-targeting and targeting by browser type, time of day, ISP, domain and operating system, together accounted for less than 4% of all publisher-served ads.

The DoubleClick ad serving trend report also found that the average click-through rate in the second quarter was 0.43%, compared with 0.52% in the second quarter of 2003. The average view-through rate-the measure of ad viewers who don't click on an ad but eventually take action-was 0.73% in the second quarter of 2004, compared with 0.63% in the same period of 2003.

Rich media ads increased by 34% in the second quarter of 2004 compared with the second quarter of 2003, and leaderboard ads increased by 384% in the second quarter.

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