Avenue A: Banner Views Boost Conversions More than Clicks

In another study in favor of CPM-based online advertising, Seattle-based Avenue A said Monday that it has concluded that banner ads increase conversions, even when users don’t click on them.

In a study conducted as part of its Digital Marketing Insights program, Avenue A said it has not only confirmed the power of online advertising, but proved that banner ads really do serve as a tool to build brand awareness. Although the validity of a study based on the results of one ad campaign for one client is questionable, the company’s study did show that, of Web surfers who either visited the client’s site, signed up for e-mail messages, or made a purchase, most did so after seeing an online banner ad.

The firm said it found the study’s online ad campaign — performed for an undisclosed client — directly accounted for a 10 percent increase in conversions. (It did not disclose the specific amount, nor the impressions served.) Avenue A also said it found that 80 percent of those conversions were from customers who viewed an ad, did not click, and converted later on the client’s site.

“We believe this is a breakthrough study, providing confirmation for those marketers who have reaped the benefits of online advertising for the last few years, and offering proof of the medium’s effectiveness for those who are considering it for the first time,” said Avenue A vice president of analytics Diane McCowin.

Ostensibly, the study served to showcase Avenue A’s TrueLift analytics, which basically shows the results of an online ad campaign versus what would have happened had the client not run the campaign.

But while Avenue A was out to promote its analytic capabilities, the news also comes as the latest salvo in the hotly contested debate over how best to judge the value of online advertising — a debate that’s been growing louder lately as ad dollars grow more scarce. With clients under increasing pressure to justify their marketing dollars — and online ad companies facing similar pressure to justify their very existence — firms are working to defend their various advertising and accounting models.

Pay-for-performance firms like ValueClick maintain that their clients see a better ROI and more accurate reporting through clickthrough- or acquisition-based accounting.

On the other side of the fence, CPM advertisers like DoubleClick, 24/7 Media and Engage point to studies that suggest that banner ads increase brand awareness, thereby driving traffic even when users do not click. Engage’s AdKnowledge research unit announced similar results to Avenue A’s in several reports earlier this year. One of those studies found that 32 percent of all conversions followed an ad view without a click.

While Avenue A seems to be throwing in its lot with Engage and the other predominantly CPM advertisers, its methodology does suggest, at the very least, that online advertising makes some sizable difference — in this case, a 10 percent conversion increase. And in this market, that’s good news for every online advertising firm — whether they’re CPM or pay-for-performance.

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