News reports have focused on a study's disappointing results for large ad units, but size isn't really the point.
Don't pull the plug on oversized display ad units. That's the message from Dynamic Logic SVP of Custom Solutions Ken Mallon in the wake of his company's report that shows disappointing results from larger ad sizes that content publishers hope will kick start their 2009 revenue engines.
The study shows that ads integrated into the content of the page, such as half banners and rectangles, are the most effective in driving online ad awareness and purchase intent. The research was based on 2,390 online display campaigns that took place over the past three years, and was conducted before the Online Publisher's Association's standardization of three new oversized ad formats in March.
The study found that half banners (234 x 60) and rectangles (180 x 150) were more effective than ads that frame the page such as leaderboards and skyscrapers. In fact leaderboards and skyscrapers were found to produce half the ad awareness of smaller more effectively placed units. Mallon believes the problems emanate more from placement and shape of the ads than from the concept of size.
"This should not be taken to mean that larger ads don't work," Mallon said. "I think the new OPA formats are likely to do very well in fact, and six months from now we're likely to say they're fantastic. But this report presents what we've studied so far."
The study is a call for publishers to reconsider their ad positions, adjacency to content, and size, according to Mallon. He said DL has already finished some consulting projects with major publishers who have used the study to either plan for redesigns or have executed them already.
The research also examined rich media ad effectiveness. Ad campaigns using rich media with video created the strongest brand impact (across most branding goals, including aided brand awareness, online ad awareness, brand favorability, and purchase intent) compared to campaigns using simple Flash and rich media without video formats. The worst performer was simple Flash, the format used most often by agencies and advertisers. Mallon says this discrepancy needs to be addressed at the agency level. He would like to see strategy and consideration of branding goals get equal billing with decisions about creative format.
"Creative is still the biggest driver of consumer perception and awareness," he said. "And yet brands and their agencies still approve creative that can actually annoy the user. We still measure too many campaigns that don't do well because they cover content, look like competitors and create negative perceptions. I'd say 15 percent of all campaigns don't do well for that reason."
So if Mallon was taking this most recent report into a marketing meeting next week, he says he wouldn't focus on the negatives about ad sizes, or rich media execution. "I would use this to avoid border ads, don't be annoying and try out the new OPA formats," he said.
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