Familiarity Breeds Content

Internet users that have a connection with a particular site are more likely to transfer those feelings toward the site’s advertisers, according to research from the Online Publishers Association, that found site affinity to be a greater driver of key brand metrics than frequency of ad exposure. In addition, the data concluded that in most cases, a high frequency of exposure against a high affinity visitor was the best combination for advertising effectiveness.

“This research proves that the sites on which advertising appears significantly impact how that advertising performs,” said Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the Online Publishers Association. “The existence of a media ‘halo effect’ has been presumed by advertisers in traditional media for decades. This research shows that the media halo effect works with online advertising, as well, and that advertisers who target sites that attract loyal, high affinity audiences will, indeed, see superior results.”

The survey, conducted by comScore Networks, included approximately 1,300 U.S. Internet users between October 2002 and January 2003. Four different advertising campaigns and media plans were tested, and three different test cells were established for each advertiser based on the number of ad exposures respondents received – Low Frequency (1-4 ad exposures); High Frequency (5-8 ad exposures); and the Control Cell (no ad exposures).

The results were calculated through the “Affinity Index” – site recommendation was worth 60 percent; satisfaction with content was worth 24 percent; and status among favorites was worth 16 percent. The result is an attitudinal measure that characterizes the bond between the visitor and the site.

Findings include:

  • 38 percent of High Affinity visitors indicated that they were very or somewhat likely to buy the advertised brand in the next three months, as opposed to only 32 percent of Low/Medium affinity users.
  • 12 percent of High Affinity visitors recalled online ads for the test brands compared to only 7 percent of Low/Medium Affinity visitors. High Affinity visitors are even more likely to recall online advertising for the test brands when supported by increased ad frequency. At a high frequency (5+), 15 percent of High Affinity visitors recalled seeing online ads for the test brands vs. only 4 percent of Low/Medium Affinity visitors.
  • Sports (82 percent), food, lifestyle and entertainment (72 percent), and computers and technology (72 percent) site categories had the greatest percentage of High Affinity visitors. Business news had the lowest percentage of High Affinity users at 53 percent.
  • High frequency of exposure to High Affinity users was also the best combination for increasing aided recall of the specific ads tested.

Adding to the advertising optimism are predictions from ZenithOptimedia indicating 2.7 percent growth on U.S. advertising spending in 2003.

“USA advertising is performing more strongly than the expectations of underlying economic performance would normally merit. Leading advertisers are the motor driving growth evenly across all media. This is high-quality momentum,” the ZenithOptimedia report reads.

Additionally, TNS Media Intelligence/CMR forecasts a 4.3 percent rise in U.S. advertising spending for 2003 to $124.7 billion. Key trends that impact this healthy advertising outlook include: the strong upfront season; the continued rise of Hispanic media spending; the active political environment; and the steady growth in new brand spending.

“The first quarter for this year came in very strong at 4.9 percent with spending totaling $28.4 billion – this robust spending is likely a precursor for the rest of the year,” said Steven Fredericks, president and CEO of TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. “Even without the peaks found in years where Olympic spending and presidential election activity buoy overall spending, 2003 is expected to continue the sustained growth we’ve tracked since the third quarter of 2002.”

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