Good Formats, Bad Habits

Last week, I listed some ad formats popular among networks for their ability to come as close to outperforming pop-ups as any format can. As it happens, another format has just proven it has a few moves of its own. It’s time to revisit Unicast’s Video Commercial.

When I first referenced this groundbreaking online video format a couple months ago, questions abounded. How would it be received by Internet users? How it would perform for advertisers? Since then, the format’s beta testing is complete. It’s produced some interesting results.

According to data provided by Dynamic Logic, the firm that conducted the independent study of the six-week test, Video Commercials have some serious pull where increased brand recognition and purchase intent is concerned. Consumer response to the ads shows brand awareness of products advertised was lifted 54 percent; message association by 144 percent; brand preference by 40 percent; and purchase intent by 47 percent.

The study reveals another noteworthy fact: A good number of consumers actually liked the ads. Fifty-two percent of users who saw the ads liked the format size; 56 percent said the ads have “visual appeal”; and 53 percent agree sound made the ads more enjoyable. Some viewers, of course, didn’t respond quite so enthusiastically. (About 30 percent took a neutral stance on the aforementioned features.) Only a small number, around 17 percent, failed to agree the ads had overall appeal.

The percentage of users who found the ads “annoying” is reasonably low: 28 percent, compared with the 78 percent of consumers irritated by pop-ups (per Gartner research) and 38 percent annoyed by TV advertising, according to Harris Interactive research.

This last nugget of information may be the most pertinent to advertisers and media buyers considering the format. Though Video Commercials clearly have potential to perform quite well, they’re hardly the first format to produce positive results. Many rich media formats have proven to be equally impressive over the years. Yet formats that tend to perform well usually have as many foes as fans. With its proven track record and inoffensive status, the Video Commercial has an edge over other forms of online advertising.

Data we’ve seen so far are preliminary (phase two of the study will review results of two more campaigns). Though the format’s garnering attention and enjoying positive interpretation by the media, it’s far too early to say where these ads will end up. Current success is due in part to strict frequency capping. If publishers adhere to this golden rule, the format could continue to deliver those great results.

Whether positive consumer reaction and publisher respect will continue once the novelty wears off is another matter. Shortly after banner ads first appeared, HotWired’s Advertising Effectiveness Study revealed that format contributed to brand recognition and recall. Ultimately, a banner ad gold rush was spawned. Today, getting so much as a nod using this archaic format is a challenge.

Pop-ups were also a fun distraction when they were introduced. Respect for the online consumer experience was swapped for clicks and sales. Despite pop-ups uncanny functionality, Internet users aren’t pleased with the result.

The keys to online marketing success is (and always will be) keeping formats and creative fresh and respecting the user by targeting and capping delivery of all ads. The former can easily be achieved with the help of such innovations as the Video Commercial.

Control of the latter lies with media buyers and marketers. If we’ve learned anything in this business, it’s bad habits devastate good formats. Let’s not just enjoy this latest format while it’s on top. Let’s try to keep it there as well.

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