Online Ad Firms: We Must Educate Traditional Advertisers

Ad network 24/7 Media and European online research firm Pro Active International aim to “educate” traditional marketers about online advertising’s usefulness — and a new joint study with consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble could help to do so.

Amsterdam-based Pro Active’s new, survey-based BrandCeption product tracks users’ responses to online ad campaigns — and in a recent program for P&G’s French division, the company said it proved that banner ads can be used to increase and influence consumer perceptions.

If that’s the case, the study is much-needed ammunition for Web ad firms, who are grappling with not only a difficult market for advertising in general, but one that’s particularly critical of impression-based online efforts.

The company tracked a banner campaign for P&G’s Winnerland site, which aggregates games and contests with product information. 24/7 Media served the ads and the surveys, and Pro Active compared the results of 1,000 respondents who had seen the ads to a control group of Web surfers who had not seen the ads.

As a result, the company said it saw results demonstrating that the company’s online campaign had an effect on brand awareness — and that the amount of brand awareness was directly contingent on the number of impressions each person received.

For one, the company said people who had seen a banner ad for Winnerland demonstrated 4.5 times greater aided brand awareness than the control group.

Additionally, despite what Pro Active said were low clickthrough rates, the company said the campaign seems to have influenced Internet users’ intention to visit the site. People who had seen the ads ranked Winnerland third, out of nine total sites, in terms of whether they would consider visiting it. Furthermore, one-fifth of Internet users who saw the online campaign said they intended to bookmark the Winnerland site.

About a third of the study’s respondents said they perceived Winnerland as “young and amusing” after seeing ads for the site, while only 10 percent of users in the control group agreed.

And interestingly, the company concluded that not only do banners work to improve tagline recognition — a barometer for whether users remember a product and its positioning — but recognition also is dependent on the number of impressions. Thirty-eight percent of respondents who saw the Winnerland creative two to three times recognized the Winnerland tagline, while about 29 percent of respondents recognized it if they saw it once.

This “proves that the Internet can play an important role in the awareness and perception of brands, [that] the measurement of conversion is not limited to clickthrough rates, [and] the advertiser can … determine whether the message reached the target group and if it was understood,” said Pro Active chief executive Liesbeth Hop.

While online advertising’s supporters have issued many such studies, the conductors of Pro Active International’s study maintain that one way to ease the Sturm und Drang surrounding Web advertising’s usefulness is to run more tests like these.

“Our strategy towards big-brand advertisers is to convince them of the added-value that online advertising, promotion and sponsorship offer by demonstrating the brand building effectiveness via quality joint research,” said Egbert van Acht, 24/7 Media’s European marketing director. “Internet advertising is still new to most parties involved, and only through extensive testing can brands explore the relevance and effect on their target audiences.”

Pro Active said research conducted like BrandCeption — which surveys and draws conclusions from surveying random participants during an actual, current campaign — works better than using a panel, for instance.

“Up until now, the tools available for measuring online advertising campaigns were limited to examining the clickthrough behaviour of Internet users,” Hop said. “BrandCeption allows the introduction of new dimensions and will help to reposition the Internet in media plans.”

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