The research project, funded in part by Intel Corp. to showcase the performance of its Pentium II chip, was announced last month. It is being conducted by IPSOS-ASI Market Research.
Today at the @dtech: conference in New York, top-line results of the first phase of the research will be released, which will attempt to show the effectiveness of rich-media ads in communicating an advertiser's message.
The advertisers are Johnson & Johnson for Tylenol, AT&T Corp., Levi Strauss & Co. for Dockers, Bank of America, Toys "R" Us and Intel.
"We can do sexy ads, but that's not enough," said Susan Bratton, director -- interactive advertising, at @Home. "We have to be able to measure them."
ONLINE SURVEYS EMPLOYED
Last month, @Home started recruiting its users to participate in online surveys designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the ads.
The variables being tested in the first phase were ad recall, message comprehension and persuasion.
The second phase, which begins this week, will test the performance of rich-media ads, including click-throughs and amount of time spent with the ad.
While the first phase was limited to ads being evaluated in a test environment for roughly 2,100 users, the second will involve live ads that @Home will place across its network that reaches 210,000 households in 169 markets.
To receive @Home, users need to live in an area served by broadband, two-way cable and purchase a cable modem, which costs about $200.
21 ADS TESTED
In the first phase, @Home tested 21 ads. That included three for each advertiser -- two broadband ads and one narrowband ad.
Four of the advertisers worked with existing agencies to develop the rich-media ads: Modem Media, Westport, Conn., developed the AT&T ads; CKS Group, Cupertino, Calif., developed the Dockers ads; Frog Design, San Francisco, developed the Bank of America ads; Medical Broadcast Co., Philadelphia, developed the Tylenol ads; and @Home, Redwood City, Calif., developed the rest.
One hundred respondents were recruited for each ad and, if they qualified, they were sent to a test environment to view the ad and answer questions.
Following are some of the strategies for the ads being tested:
Toys "R" Us: To drive customers to shop online, the retailer uses multimedia games developed with Flash, Dynamic HTML, a more interactive form of HTML that provides capabilities such as scrolling within a banner ad, and other technologies to "recreate the feeling of walking through the store." A Lego helicopter spins and zooms above a buy button, which takes users to the Toys "R" Us site.
Johnson & Johnson: To increase awareness of Tylenol Allergy Sinus, the company provides interactive tips and information about "enemies" that can lurk in homes through a Shockwave tour of a typical living room.
AT&T: To drive sign-ups for its Digital One rate, the company gives users an interactive demonstration of a digital phone and AT&T services, complete with sound effects, using QuickTime, Shockwave and DHTML.
Bank of America: To convince checking account holders to sign up for online home banking, the bank created an interactive game show using Shockwave and QuickTime.
"We hope to learn that it's a significantly more enticing way for consumers to learn about our products," said Russ Wood, VP-director of marketing for Bank of America's interactive banking division in San Francisco.
It will be used as a benchmark against which to measure other media-rich advertising in the future, he added.
While findings may show the effectiveness of rich-media ads on the @Home Network, it remains to be seen how these results will translate to delivery of ads seen by users dialing into the Internet on 28.8K modems.
"It' s now happening. The network is getting built out," said Ms. Bratton.
1.2 MIL HOMES WITH CABLE MODEMS
According to Jupiter Communications, roughly 1.2 million U.S. households now have broadband capabilities through cable modems, ISDN lines and other high-speed delivery services. By 2000, 6 million homes will have broadband access, and by 2002 that number will reach 12.5 million homes.
However, said Evan Neufeld, senior analyst-online advertising at Jupiter, "Bandwidth does not equal brandwidth.
"A lot of the failure of banners has been with advertisers and agencies not working hard enough to understand the potential of the medium," he said, noting that the @Home rich-media tests will be useful if they convince marketers to think differently about Web advertising.
But till then, "We really wanted to give the people who are doing advertising for a living a feeling there is hope for this business," Ms. Bratton said.