According to a recent study by ZD Net, Cambridge, Mass., of animated Web advertising on its site, the answer isn't an issue of "whether," but only of "how much?".
In evaluating the performance of some 30 ads over the last five months, ZD Net found that animated ads generated click-through rates at least 15% higher than static ads, and in some cases as much as 40% higher.
"Web animation is an important weapon and a powerful tool for improving click-through and action on a Web banner," says Jim Savage, ZD Net VP-general manager.
"The banner becomes more visible and people pay more attention to it even if they don't click on it," says Mr. Savage of animated ads. "They're also more likely to take action and click and go for more information if it's animated and done in an effective way."
For example, an animated Web ad by Anderson & Lembke, New York, for ICon CMT Corp., Weehawken, N.J., which sells high-speed T-1 access, initially pulled a 19% response rate and now some 12 weeks later is still averaging rates of 15% on ZD Net and CMP Media's TechWeb site and others, says Hans Sydow, Anderson managing director.
That compares with an average Web banner response rate of 2%.
The ICon ad uses two animated scrolling bars that fill up painfully slowly --an all too familiar image for most Internet users. The copy reads: "To make it go faster click here."
"The animation is a symbol people can relate to," says Mr. Sydow. "We've addressed a real problem with animation and copy and kept the message graphically simple."
Still, simply animating a Web banner doesn't guarantee higher response rates. Mr. Savage's advice: Combine animation with a strong, well-crafted message and a clear call to action.
"Animation for animation's sake doesn't seem to do much," he says. "It should fit with the message and the copy and goal of the banner and emphasize what the product is all about."
ZD Net's observations are echoed by other Web marketers.
"It's an improvement with animation, but it doesn't take the place of response-driven copy and a creative idea," says Scott Heiferman, president and CEO of i-traffic, a New York-based online media planning agency.
Mr. Heiferman also notes that it's difficult to separate the impact of animation from the other features of an ad.
"It's hard to pinpoint if it's the animation or if the animation is tied to a more compelling idea," he says.
TOO MUCH DOESN'T WORK
ZD Net's study did not isolate animation from other features of an advertisement. Still, says Matthew Lindley, ZD Net advertising creative director, "Everything points to the fact that animation outscores non-animation in almost every instance."
ZD Net also learned that in animation, as with many things, too much of a good thing fizzles.
"There's two degrees of bad when it comes to animation," says Mr. Lindley.
One is animation that takes a long time to download. Combine that with poor copy, and you have a guaranteed "really awful experience," he says.