December 02, 2000

The Internet Advertising Bureau commissioned MBinteractive to conduct the IAB Online Advertising Effectiveness Study in order to help value the advertising impact of online communications, since much of what is known and predicted about the medium is within the context of direct marketing. The IAB wanted to provide data in a form that was familiar to Madison Avenue and its Clients, testing the medium's ability to move the traditional marketing communications measures of advertisement awareness, product attribute communication and purchase intent. What's more, the study is important because it is the largest and most comprehensive research of advertising effectiveness ever undertaken in any medium, made possible because of the Web's ability to provide quantitative results quickly.

It is important to note that the study was conducted in a real world setting with real brands on real media sites, with the real audience of consumers naturally accessing the Web sites so that the most representative results could be provided. This research focused on the effects of advertising banners, which Jupiter Communications reports comprise 80% of online placements today. While effective evolutions to creative presentation will be unlocked in time with increases in technology and bandwidth, the online advertising's power today should be exploited by clients and agencies as part of the overall communications media mix.

The IAB Online Advertising Effectiveness Study was fielded from June 1 to June 13, 1997, simultaneously across twelve leading web sites: CNN, CompuServe, ESPN SportsZone, Excite, Geocities, HotWired, Looksmart, Lycos, MacWorld, National Geographic Online, Pathfinder (People), and Ziff-Davis. Over one million members of the Web audience had an equal opportunity to be randomly sampled over the course of the first wave, which collected basic demographics and an email address. The second wave was conducted over a time period ranging from one day to one week after ad exposure. Forty-seven percent of wave one respondents completed the second wave, yielding 16,758 respondents - a substantial test sample.

While the study told potential respondents that the research was designed to "learn more about them", control was sought for a multitude of factors that could influence a test of advertising effectiveness. The classic experimental research design, the most rigorous study methodology available, was applied by randomly assigning users to be part of either the test or exposed cells. Because Web ad banners are served individually one at a time to Web users, this assignment was invisible to the respondent. Importantly, both the exposed and test cells were treated identically in all respects, except for the exposure to a test Web banner.

Online advertising has tremendous communications power; a single exposure can generate increases in:

Advertisement awareness
Brand awareness
Product attribute communication
Purchase intent
Nearly all of the impact measured was generated without a 'click-through' to the advertiser's site, - proving the power of the ubiquitous banner.

Selected highlights of the report follow, while the document provides the results in full.

Consumer acceptance of online advertising is comparable to that of traditional media.

MBinteractive asked comparable questions for the Web, Print, and Television in a separate survey of its recently established US nationally representative panel of Web users. On a five point scale ranging from "Strongly in favor of" to "Strongly against," between 60% and 70% of Web users report top-two box scores in favor of Web, Television, and Print advertising. Web users are less supportive of Radio advertising and are somewhat opposed to outdoor signage/billboards (only one third report a top-two box score in favor of such marketing vehicles).

Online Advertising dramatically increases advertisement awareness after only one exposure.

Advertisement Awareness is measured by a question asking respondents if they recall seeing an ad on a particular Web site in the past seven days. Those who respond "no" are prompted with the tested ad and then re-asked the question.

By the criterion of getting noticed by consumers, the twelve ad banners tested by the IAB demonstrate unequivocal success after a single additional ad exposure. Eleven out of the twelve show marked improvement in advertisement awareness. An additional exposure to the advertisement boosted advertisement awareness by 30% on average (from 34.0% to 44.1%), statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

Web advertising boosts awareness of advertised brands

Eight of the twelve ad banners we tested showed positive increases in brand awareness (three of the brands tested already enjoyed nearly universal levels of awareness at 100%, 99% and 92% respectively and could not go much higher). For two relatively new brands, the increase was dramatic. Web ad banners not only have the ability to remind consumers about brands for which they are already aware, Web ad banners can and do inform users about products that were not previously on the consumer's radar. Across the 12 brands tested, we observed an increase of 5%, on average, in awareness of the brands (from 61% to 64% - statistically significant at the 95% confidence level).

Online advertising provides significant brand communications power.

Since each of the 12 brands studied had varying creative objectives, the research investigated attitudinal shifts on a brand-by-brand, questionnaire item-by-item basis.

Six of the twelve Web ad banners meet the statistically significant threshold of 90% on brand perception items
Five out of six demonstrate clear positive change while the sixth shows a polarization of positive and negative attitudes, with a positive net effect on purchase intent
In general, Web advertising can positively impact brand perceptions.
Following is one such example from Volvo.

Online Advertising has the potential to increase sales.

We observed a positive increase for nine of the twelve brands tested. On average, Consumer Loyalty increased 4% across the twelve brands tested after only one exposure.

Click-throughs are not necessary for impactful brand communication; in fact, click-throughs don't add very much.

Banner exposure itself was responsible for 96% of the brand enhancement, while a click-through only contributed 4%. While additional powerful messaging may wait on the other side of a banner at the advertiser's Web site, the analysis indicates that the exposure itself carries nearly all of the value. Click-throughs may be an important element of some online campaigns, but with an industry average of 2%, the real communications power is where the majority of the audiences can see the message.

Online advertising is more likely to be noticed than television advertising.

Millward Brown International's FORCE score (First Opportunity to see Reaction Created by the Execution), measures a medium's ability tor its advertising to be first noticed. The results show that Web advertising compares favorably to television in its ability to create a brand-linked impression.

The results are impressive indeed since little research has been conducted on how to optimize online advertising - much in contrast to the significant expenditures allocated to television and print creative pre-testing. And while television has the advantage of being more intrusive (through the combination of sight, sound and motion), it is still a passive medium where the viewer is not required to be actively engaged and attentive to the medium in order to consume it. Conversely, Web and print-based media have the advantage of active reader involvement and attention, being 12 - 18 inches away from their audience and requiring them to take action to consume the medium. The engaged state, which the Web encourages, seems to help provide higher attention to online advertising.

Online advertising, using banners, has tremendous communications power. In fact, banners can impact the traditional marketing measures of...…

Advertisement awareness
Brand awareness
Brand perceptions
Potential for sales
...all from one exposure

To download a copy of the study... CLICK below:

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