Study: Rich-media ads may overwhelm consumers

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A new study by rich-media proponents finds rich Internet ads generate higher recall and clicks than standard banners. But beware: Ads may be too rich for consumers to comprehend.

Ipsos-ASI Senior VP Marianne Foley, who conducted the study being released today, cautioned against drawing conclusions about comprehension since it hasn't factored in differences in types of products advertised in rich ads vs. regular banners it studied previously.

But Susan Bratton, VP-market development at Excite@Home, speculated rich ads' comprehension was lower, in part, because advertisers packed in too much information.

'ADVERTISERS TEND TO GO NUTTY'

Rich-media advertisers tend "to go nutty in delivering more information than a consumer can absorb," she said. "The consumer can become confused and overwhelmed. It's rich, highly interactive, sexy 'brochureware.'"

Excite@Home, which sells Enliven rich-media tools and @Home cable-modem service, and Intel Corp., which promotes rich media using its high-end processors, commissioned the study. The broad field of rich-media includes adding motion, sound and transaction capabilities to Web ads.

Ford Motor Co., Pfizer, Procter & Gamble Co., Showtime, Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus and a large tech company provided rich ads for the test. Select @Home subscribers evaluated pitches based on recall, comprehension and other points; ASI compared results to its database covering standard banners.

When rich ads in one product category were compared against traditional banners in the same category, broadband ads had 22% higher recall, 35% higher clicks but slightly lower "likability" than standard banners.

In overall comprehension scores, rich-media ads trailed standard banner ads. But Ms. Foley cautioned that Ipsos-ASI hasn't crunched data to compare ads' comprehension scores in similar product categories.

FALLING CONSUMER RECALL

Ad recall in the "Rich Media II" study fell compared with the study's first wave last fall, suggesting rich-media ads aren't immune to falling consumer recall ASI has detected in traditional banners.

Ms. Bratton and Ms. Foley said advertisers need to pay more attention to marketing basics. Said Ms. Foley: "People are still playing with the technology and forgetting they're crafting an ad."

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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