Banners Can Brand, Honestly They Can

As part of its ongoing effort make online advertising appeal to traditional advertisers, the Interactive Advertising Bureau teamed up with DoubleClick, Dynamic Logic and a collection of Web publishers to release studies concluding that online advertising can help build and maintain brands.

The studies, which were undertaken with the participation of Web publishers iWon, MSN, Snowball and CNET, examined not only the effect that online advertising has on branding, but also examined how the new, larger online advertising sizes and new technologies effect the advertising message.

While the IAB study (conducted by Dynamic Logic) found that 468 x 60 banners produced significant increases in certain brand metrics for all four ad campaigns studied, the new “skyscraper” (160 x 600) and “large rectangle (360 x 300) sizes, which became IAB standards in February 2001, were found to be 3 to 6 times more effective than standard banners in increasing brand awareness and message association.

A case study featuring an ad campaign for Vaniqa (a new depilatory from Bristol-Myers Squibb), which ran on iWon, was used as an example that online advertising can help build new, unknown brands. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of the consumers in the IAB study had never heard of the Vaniqa brand. After a single exposure to a skyscraper ad for the product, it scored a 7 point (30 percent) increase in brand awareness to 30 percent. The large rectangle size performed even better, increasing brand awareness 10 points (43 percent) to 33 percent. Only 14 percent of consumers could connect to the message of the Vaniqa campaign (“Now Up Close is Up to You”) before seeing a large rectangle ad, which then increased connection to the message to 28 percent.

Studies by MSN (also conducted by Dynamic Logic) and DoubleClick (conducted by Diameter) examined advertising technologies such as audio, video, Flash and DHTML, and found that each technology improved the effectiveness of larger ad units beyond that of standard animated GIF images. Diameter found that the use of audio improved brand performance by an average of 14 percent for the three brands it studied, while video provided a lift of 9 percent. Animated GIFs provided a lift of 4 percent. Flash technology, however, stole the show by giving brand measures an average lift of 71 percent. MSN’s study, which tested the uBid and ShareBuilder brands, found that Flash improved brand awareness by 5 percent, while DHTML produced a 13 percent lift.

DoubleClick’s study also examined the role played by the position of Internet ads in three general positions: on the page; a pop-up over the page; and as an interstitial as a new page loads. It found that pop-up ads may actually be slightly less effective than the same size ad appearing on a page. Both types of ads lifted brand awareness, however; pop-ups by an average of 52 percent and large rectangles by 55 percent. Interstitials were the show stopper for positioning, working 194 percent better at boosting brand effectiveness.

Despite the encouraging findings, the studies still leave room for criticism. For one thing, the surveys on which these studies were based tested only “aided” ad awareness — in other words, using multiple-choice rather than open-answer questions. The surveys also popped up only moments after the ad appeared — potentially inflating the ad’s presence in users’ memory. On a related note, the studies also don’t consider advertising decay — the amount of time it takes for an impression to be forgotten by a viewer.

At any rate, the recent push to promote the efficacy of online ads as a branding tool has two purposes: 1) To convince advertisers that the once-popular click-throughs are not an accurate measure of the effectiveness of online advertising, and 2) To convince traditional advertisers with large advertising budgets, especially consumer packaged goods giants, to invest some of that money in online advertising.

Christopher Saunders, assistant editor at internetnews.com’s Internet Advertising Report, contributed to this article.

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