Study: Financial Display Ads Need More Human Touch, Less Copy

Financial services brands have made a bad habit out of being too text-heavy and subsequently less effective at both building awareness and persuading consumers to become customers, according to new research on display ads by Dynamic Logic. The study also found that images of people appear to be a big factor in the success of most online campaigns, especially when it comes to financial services.

In other words, fewer details and more human touch are in order for display ads from that sector.

“If it’s automotive, you show a car. If it is consumer package goods, you show a product,” said Ken Mallon, SVP of customer solutions for the online advertising firm, part of the Millward Brown Company. “But for financial services, there’s not a [physical] product to display. So, I think that showing actual people that the viewer can relate to helps them from an online advertising standpoint.”

Limiting the number of offers or ideas in the campaign to just two also improved performance for display ads across sectors, he said. “In the data, three, four, or more messages obscured other [important] things,” Mallon said. “It’s all about ad clutter at the end of the day. And people try to jam in too many messages and those ads don’t do as well.”

Dynamic Logic’s study, dubbed “Online Creative Best Practices,” focused on the last 100 consumer campaigns per industry during the last three years and involved “a few million respondents,” said Amy Fayer, a research manager for the company. Financial services, automotive, packaged goods, entertainment, and retail were the categories included among the 170,000 ads in the research.

The study compared the top 10 percent and bottom 10 percent of ads when it came to performance metrics. Based on differences between the two extremes, the research team examined percentages of each element (copy, photos, logos, etc.) being measured before confirming or disproving a hypothesis.

To produce the data, short surveys were served to viewers after they saw an ad from one of Dynamic Logic’s clients. The questions centered on performance-related issues for display ads (traditional, rich media, and video), while looking to unearth what creative elements produce the best recall, awareness and purchase intent.

“Reveal ads,” or online promos that don’t include the brand or call-to-action until the very end, fared particularly poorly. While Mallon pointed to video ads with entertainment or comedic value as possible exceptions to the rule, he said that the study found that relying on intrigue while demanding consumer patience is a deadly combo for online campaigns.

“These ‘reveal’ or ‘punch-line’ ads seem to work as TV commercials,” he said. “But in the online world, you only have a split second, and they are really ineffective…It’s important to not only get the brand out early in an ad but to get it out continuously.”

Accentuating the split-second opportunity to impact eyeballs, the study also found that display ads with a brand logo significantly outperformed those without one in terms of generating online ad awareness. Additionally, the study results generally support the company’s past research that found creative elements can be responsible for up to 75 percent of a campaign’s success or failure.

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