Online ads: Bigger is better?

The Internet Advertising Bureau trade group, Microsoft and DoubleClick have a message to companies skeptical about online advertising: Bigger is better.

The Internet Advertising Bureau trade group, Microsoft and DoubleClick have a message to companies skeptical about online advertising: Bigger is better.

At least that's what two studies, made public Wednesday by the groups, conclude. The studies come months after the standards for larger, more interactive ads that could help advertisers better brand their products and services.

"The new (ads) were three to six times more effective than banner advertisements in increasing message association and brand awareness," said Nick Nyhan, president of DynamicLogic, which was hired by the IAB and Microsoft to conduct their studies. Message association is an industry term that refers to a consumer's ability to match a logo or slogan to a product.

Research supporting the effectiveness of bigger online ads underscores the failure of earlier Internet marketing strategies. In the past, Web ads aimed to drive transactions with unobtrusive banners, with success measured by the number of times consumers clicked through to an advertiser's Web site. Now, however, Web publishers such as CBS MarketWatch are seeking to distance themselves from that model, which has yielded poor results.

CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, was one of the first to launch larger ads with Flash animation. CNET is also a member of the IAB and released its own study on Wednesday about the effectiveness of product branding through these new ads.

Nyhan said that the studies compared the traditional banner ad with the much larger "skyscraper" ads that stretch vertically alongside a page and the "large rectangle" ads that fill up a chunk of a site. As the advertisements get bigger and more prominent on the site, the more effective they became in conveying an advertiser's message, the studies showed.

The studies did not examine the effectiveness of "pop-ups"--another form of online advertising that automatically launches a browser window linked to a company's Web site.

The drive to prove the effectiveness of online ads stems from an attempt to prove to traditional advertisers that the Web is also a powerful medium to deliver a message.

The larger ads were devised at a time when traditional advertising banners were being questioned for their effectiveness. In response, companies created bigger ads, some embedded with Flash animation, to lure Web surfers into the advertiser's message. Much of the rethinking also resulted from the collapse in online advertising caused by the deflation of the Internet stock bubble.

"They need money; it's real simple," said Jim Nail, an analyst at Forrester Research, in regards to the Internet industry's motivation. "There's been longstanding skepticism that the Internet is effective for branding."

Nail said that Wednesday's study is the latest in a series of reports drawing the same conclusion about the Web's effectiveness for branding.

"Now the question is, 'Who cares?'" Nail said.

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