Outlook brightens for Web ads

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Armed with new data from four separate research studies, online ad sellers are again pitching reluctant online advertisers that Internet ads are effective for branding. But it’s still a tough sell in the b-to-b space.

"Im not sure Im buying it," said Rick Segal, chairman-CEO of HSR Business to Business Inc., Cincinnati. "Clearly, these richer media formats have proved to be more productive than the static horizontal banner," Segal said, pointing to new interactive ad formats introduced by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in February and the focus of much of the new research. "But are they truly productive around branding? Weve had the greatest success with sales promotion rather than brand building."

Positive results

Last month, the IAB, DoubleClick Inc., Microsoft Corp.s MSN and CNet Networks Inc. released results of studies showing that standard banner ads can be effective for branding, and that the new interactive units are particularly effective in raising brand awareness and other metrics showing ad effectiveness.

"I think theres been a big question out there for a while about whether you can use the Internet to do branding advertising," said Robin Webster, CEO of the IAB and former exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers, echoing Segals concern. "This proves upside down and backwards that branding works. It doesnt matter if youre b-to-c or b-to-b."

Following are the findings of the research:

The IAB study, conducted by Dynamic Logic, found that the new larger ad units are 25% more effective in lifting key brand metrics such as brand awareness and message association, even after one exposure. Additional exposures significantly increase persuasion metrics such as purchase intent.

The DoubleClick study, conducted by Diameter, showed that on average, banner ads increased brand measures by 56%, large rectangles increased brand measures by 86%, and interstitial ads increased brand measures by 194%. The brand measures used were aided brand awareness, aided advertising awareness, ad attribute recall and ad recall.

The MSN study, also conducted by Dynamic Logic, found that skyscraper ads lifted brand awareness by 16%, four times the average lift among all campaigns Dynamic Logic tested. The study also found that interactive dynamic HTML (dHTML) units lifted awareness by 13%, double the performance of the non-interactive creative in the campaigns.

The CNet research, conducted by Millward Brown IntelliQuest, found that for CNet "message-plus units," which are larger, interactive ads, unaided brand awareness increased 55% over the control group and brand recognition increased 30% over the control group.

Stopping power

"The larger units really are effective in stopping people and getting them to look at the messaging," said Cheryl Brink, VP-research and business intelligence at CNet.

She said eye-tracking (a specialized type of research that uses photographic technology to track eye movements of users viewing ads) showed that users spent on average between seven and eight seconds looking at the larger message-plus units, compared with one to two seconds for standard banner ads.

"[Advertisers] achieved their goal of breaking through the clutter, with a clear point of difference," Brink said, although she declined to name the advertisers who participated in the research. They were all b-to-b advertisers, she said.

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