DoubleClick, IAB, MSN: Bigger Ads Brand Better

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NEW YORK -- Get ready for more big ads on the Web.


That is, if the folks at ad services firm DoubleClick, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Microsoft's MSN have anything to say about it.


Stepping up their efforts to firmly implant the Internet in marketers' minds as a branding medium, the three organizations held a press conference here yesterday at DoubleClick headquarters to present the results of three studies aimed at proving that online ads are effective branding vehicles.


The studies -- which ran from mid-April to mid-June -- tested three ad sizes: the standard banner, the newer large rectangle and skyscrapers.


All three studies found that bigger ads are better at raising awareness, brand favorability, message association and intent to purchase. What's more, according to the studies, bigger ads with rich media technology are even more effective, and interstitials -- bigger ads that appear between page loads -- are more effective still.


The studies come at a time when practically everyone who sells online ads is working feverishly to get marketers to stop focusing on clicks as an indicator of their online campaigns' effectiveness.


CBS MarketWatch, for example, announced earlier this month that it would no longer automatically supply its advertisers with click-through reporting.


"We're not here to bash the click, but it doesn't tell the whole story," said Nick Nyhan, director at Dynamic Logic, New York.


In a study conducted for the IAB, Dynamic Logic recruited 8,750 people, showed a group of them ads and then surveyed them to determine the effects of campaigns for four brands (Genuity, uBid, Coca-Cola and Vaniqa, a relatively unknown brand for Bristol-Myers Squibb) on four sites (CNET, iWon, Snowball and MSN).


Dynamic Logic determined that the new ad sizes are three to six times as effective as standard banners. According to the firm, one banner exposure resulted in a 2 percent lift in awareness of the brand over the control group. The skyscraper was the most effective at boosting brand awareness with a 7 percent lift. Large rectangles increased brand awareness by 5 percent.


DoubleClick recruited 153,455 respondents for its study across 25 sites, including Dilbert.com, FreeEdgar.com, iWon.com and iVillage.com. The firm tested for boosts in traditional brand measures such as brand awareness, aided advertising awareness, ad attribute recall and ad recall.


DoubleClick determined that:


· Online marketing showed an 85 percent increase in aided advertising awareness.


· Banner ads increased the measures by 56 percent, and large rectangles increased them by 86 percent.


· Interstitials increased brand measures by 194 percent.


For its part, MSN tested campaigns for two advertisers, uBid and ShareBuilder, on its content property Slate.com.


"Slate is known for strong editorial," said Jed Savage, national sales manager at Microsoft. "When you introduce advertising inside strong editorial, you take on new challenges."


Skyscrapers again performed best with a 16 percent lift in brand awareness.


At least one of the original skeptics concerning the Internet's value as a branding medium called the developments a positive step.


"There is a significant body of evidence that branding online works," said Jim Nail, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA. "This should convince even those who are skeptical. The question is, does anyone care?"


The studies come at a time when marketers are calling for more accountability even from their offline advertising, Nail said. He added that ironically it was probably the Internet that helped spur marketers' demand for accountability.


"They've made it to first base [with the branding argument]," he said. "Now they've got to keep pushing."


When asked about the possibility of bigger ads becoming an annoyance, Barry Salzman, president for global media at DoubleClick, said the ad-to-edit ratio online is still lower than that of other media, and he expects that ad sizes will continue to increase.


"I think this is the beginning of a trend," Salzman said, "but one that's acceptable to consumers across all media."


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