What's the most important factor in the success of a display ad? Size? Placement? Not surprisingly, it's relevance.

That's according to a study conducted by publisher Condé Nast and research firm McPheters & Company.

The study looked at the effectiveness of display ads that were content-relevant (eg. "food ads running on food sites, entertainment ads on entertainment sites, etc."). The results: display ads running on a relevant site were 61% more likely to be recalled.

Sites related to social network, shopping, and food had the highest recall; search and portal websites had the lowest recall. The study also found that "There were large differences in recall by type of product advertised". Again, this isn't entirely surprising, although it is interesting that the simplest form of targeting (advertising on a site that is relevant to your product) appears to be so much more effective than anything else. I would like to know if any of the ads that weren't categorized as 'relevant' by the study were served using behavioral targeting. If they were, such as study might hint at the relative ineffectiveness of behavioral targeting.

Of course, there was some bad news: 63% of the banner ads shown to users who were given the ability to browse the internet freely for 30 minutes were not seen. The dreaded banner ad blindness.

On a side note, according to Condé Nast and McPheters & Company, TV and magazine ads excelled in the study. In its report on the findings, MediaPost details that "Full-page, four-color magazine ads were determined to have 83% of the value of a 30-second television commercial, while a typical Internet banner ad has 16% of the value".

Obviously there are huge price differentials between online display ads and television and print but this provides a good example for why television and print haven't died off as some have suspected and might be a cue to savvy brands that have cut back on TV and print to reconsider. I'd imagine there are some good print deals to be had today.

Photo credit: jbcurio via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 17 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)


Tony Evans

When I consider the results from this kind of survey I always look at who commissioned it. Seeing that it was Condé Nast, a huge high-quality, content rich, print and web publisher, I wasn’t surprised to see that Ads running on sites with related content were 61% more likely to be recalled than ads running on sites with unrelated content.’

Common sense tells me that someone on Glamour.com might be interested in classy lingerie (Triumph agree). What was more difficult to understand was how social networking sites generated the highest recall levels. Set me right if I’ve got this wrong, but surely most social networking sites are contextual deserts? So how do you place an ad next to relevant content?

Also strange, as you point out, was the absence of any attempt to establish the effect of behavioural targeting. Again, common sense tells me that any add that is irrelevant to the viewer is likely to be ignored. But what about a relevant ad on a site with unrelated content – and how does this compare with a relevant ad seen in context? This survey left me with more questions than answers.

Given the huge amount of non-contextual, non-behaviorally targeted  advertising on the web I’m amazed that as many as 37% of ads were ‘seen’ (recalled?). That 63% of all banner ads on the web are wasted suggests that advertisers should be looking at better ways to target potential customers. Then again, it’s so cheap to advertise on the web – who cares?

about 9 years ago

Pauly Singh

Pauly Singh, Founder at Marketing Method

It's good news for advertisers that users aren't so blind to banners that they even ignore relevant ads to the content they're consuming!

I also think there are other ways to target online display ads in order of most to least effective:

  1. Relevant ad targeted next to related content (not always possible, especially on social networks like Tony mentioned)
  2. Behavioral targeting (users recently visiting any car research websites)
  3. Psychographic targeting (targeted to users' Facebook interests & hobbies)
  4. Demographic targeting (Married, Female, 24-30, in New York)

I'm really curious to see if there's a possible #5 where feedback on ads from users on sites like Digg, Facebook, Hulu, and now YouTube, can serve as an additional way to target (or I guess re-target) ads.

about 9 years ago

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