Banners Can Brand, Honestly, They Can

Amid efforts by groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau to promote Web media’s branding efficacy, Internet ad industry players are releasing studies that banners can brand even if clicks don’t stick.

Engage, in conjunction with vertical Web portal host Just-Sites.com, ran a two-month-long study in Europe to track post-click conversions. According to the findings, click-through analysis underestimated the campaign performance by nearly half.

Using anonymous cookies, Engage tracked the click-through and post-impression performance of four banner creatives that ran on its B2B ad network in March and April.

“Had the campaign been analyzed purely on click-through rate or even post-click conversion rate, the results of the campaign would have been severely underreported,” wrote Oliver Wilkinson, who is online marketing manager at London-based Just-sites.com. “The data is … further proof that online advertising performance can be underestimated if campaign performance analysis does not look beyond [click-throughs] and other direct response metrics to include indirect response metrics.”

In addition, the study suggested that those who do not click but visit after seeing the ad were more likely to return and stay longer than visitors who did click — suggesting that the branding effects of the ads had higher-value conversion potential.

Furthermore, the study concluded that showing a memorable URL in the banner contributed to later visits to the site from viewers who did not click.

Meanwhile, research company Dynamic Logic and i-shop eBrands launched a study in May and June that centered around creating a bogus Web company — and tracking response to online advertising driving traffic to the site.

Creating a fictitious brand to prove a medium’s branding potential is an old idea — used successfully years ago in promoting billboard and out-of-home advertising. But with Web advertising’s current woes, the effort is being revived.

Dynamic Logic’s London office worked with U.K.-based eBrands to create and advertise a fictitious e-concierge service, YesSirNoSir.com. Banners ran exclusively across the U.K. version of iVillage.com and on FTMarketWatch.com (a U.K.-focused site operated by MarketWatch.com and Pearson PLC, publisher of The Financial Times). The study used about 2 million impressions, roughly $70,000 worth of donated media.

According to Dynamic Logic, awareness levels for the nonexistent brand were raised to 11 percent from a baseline awareness of 4 percent. Additionally, the study concluded that within its targeted demographic, awareness increased to 19 percent.

As in previous studies by DoubleClick and Real Media, the YesSirNoSir.com study showed a positive correlation between the frequency of exposure and branding levels.

“The simple idea was to isolate the impact of online advertising in its ability to brand,” said Bob Ivins, managing director of Dynamic Logic Europe. “We see that it clearly can.”

The two studies come as the industry is endeavoring to turn itself around amid increasing grim reports. In its latest earnings report, DoubleClick executives said they predict the current ad spending slump will last until the middle of 2001, while recent weeks have seen the shutting down of Phase2Media and CMGI-owned AdForce due to revenue woes.

In the face of such bleak reports, industry groups like the IAB and Online Publishers Association are spearheading efforts to address problems with the medium — including what many see as an over-reliance on click-throughs as a metric of campaign efficiency.

One controversial effort, launched by IAB and OPA member MarketWatch, is to downplay the importance of click-through rates to clients by not including the statistics in reports. Meanwhile, other companies continue taking a less-direct route, commissioning research projects designed ultimately to convince marketers to spend their advertising budgets online.

Regardless of the approach, online advertising companies say that the time is nigh for something to be done to salvage the Web’s reputation as a marketing channel.

“The Internet is a powerful medium to which consumers respond, but until now it has been tremendously difficult to prove,” said eBrands managing director Simon Andrews. “We chose Dynamic Logic to test this using YesSirNoSir, and the results are very important to the industry.”

Reprinted from internet.com’s Internet Advertising Report.

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