Tricks for Choosing Ad Formats

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you choose the ad formats that you do? What drives your decisions as you plan your campaigns?

Strange as it may seem, the factors that most influence media strategists aren’t always in their best interests. Things like familiarity, convenience, and availability color our selections, instead of much more appropriate issues like newly available research, knowledge about each individual format, and the ability of those formats to meet our clients’ particular needs.

In an effort to inform media buyers on this topic, DoubleClick and Dynamic Logic recently released a co-authored a white paper, “The Brand Value of Rich Media and Video Ads.” The report focuses on branding campaigns, and breaks down several types of advertising formats — GIF and JPG ads, simple Flash, rich media with video, and rich media without video — based on their value and strengths, both individually as well as comparatively. Here are a few highlights.

  • Rich media with video is best suited for improving purchase intent. Dynamic Logic MarketNorms 2008 research reveals that rich media ads with video have four times the effect on driving purchase intent as simple Flash-based banners do. Rich media with video was also found to improve general branding goals, brand favorability, and brand awareness.
  • Rich media without video ads impact the most branding metrics. Such formats have been found to affect online ad awareness, aid brand awareness, message association, purchase intent, and brand favorability.
  • Though typically considered less effective, GIF and JPG ads come out on top in improving message association. These ads deliver on messaging primarily because the message is always front and center, and impossible to miss. As a result, they’re best used for direct response campaigns, wherein a powerful message that prompts users to take action is more important than highlighting the brand itself.
  • Simple Flash ads are the least effective formats overall. Regardless of the brand metric you’re eager to improve, there’s always a more effective format out there than simple Flash.

It’s often tempting to go with a specific format cocktail because it’s the deal of the day from your publisher, or because you already have an arsenal of formats ready to go from a previous campaign. But those formats may be all wrong for the objectives you’re trying to meet.

This compromises your campaign’s success, and can also burn through valuable ad dollars and reduce your ROI (define). Your best bet in creating a truly strategic media plan is to understand the unique benefits of each ad format and make your selection based on which actually mesh with your branding goals.

Equally important is determining how to combine the formats you select to play up each of their strengths and ensure that you’re covering all of your bases. It’s this smart approach that’s responsible for many of the common format pairings we see today, such as a pre- or post-roll video ad combined with 300 x 250 simple Flash, GIF, or JPG companion banner as well as a 728 x 90 Flash, GIF, or JPG “leave-behind” leaderboard. Each one serves a unique purpose on the page, but they also work together to achieve singular goals, like boosting brand awareness and encouraging purchase intent.

The value of a rich media with video format is greatly reduced when it’s used without the support of a companion banner, and likewise, a simple Flash banner is better used to supplement a rich media campaign than as a stand-alone ad that’s likely to fall short.

The next time you begin planning a campaign, choose your ad formats the way that you would choose players for a softball team. Consider their strengths and how capable they’ll be at helping you play the game, and make sure they’re compatible enough to create a winning team.

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