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The findings bolster previous research suggesting that marketers who target online readers who feel a high degree of affinity for a specific site will achieve statistically superior results with their online ad campaigns.
The study, entitled "The Impact of Audience Affinity on Advertising Performance," was conducted as a live test with four marketers on several OPA member sites including Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN.com, Microsoft Corp.'s Slate, Conde Nast's CondeNet, Primedia's About.com, Weather.com and New York Times Co.'s New York Times Digital.
Karen Milke-Perry, media director for AT&T, said, "The study showed us that high-affinity sites deliver the most receptive audience to our message. Moving forward, we will consider this as we consider higher-cost sites vs. lower-cost [quality] and more frequency-driven buys," she said.
The findings validate what AT&T has learned in the off-line world, she said: "Quality content that attracts a high-affinity audience is a key driver of success, more so than frequency alone."
The study is the third in a series of three undertaken by the OPA -- the first compared OPA member sites with Internet researcher Dynamic Logic's Market Norms, while the second examined Web site affinity's impact on advertising awareness and ad recall.
Participating marketers included AT&T Corp. (promoting an unlimited long-distance offer), Colgate-Palmolive Co. (Colgate Total toothpaste) and an unnamed wireless handset marketer and wine brand. The participating marketers were all clients of WPP Group's Digital Edge, New York, and used the same-size 468 x 60-pixel banner ad so that no single online creative format had an advantage over others.
Consumers were asked "How likely are you to purchase this brand in the next three months?" High-affinity consumers were 38% more likely to purchase a product after viewing an ad on a Web site to which they have an attachment, compared with 32% for low- to medium-affinity consumers.
The finding has a statistical significance of 95%, according to researcher Millward Brown/IntelliQuest, which conducted the analysis that produced an "affinity index" used in the research; ComScore Networks performed field work for the study.