Study Finds Banners Brand

Not only can online ads work for branding, but the oft-maligned banner unit itself can wield a sizable amount of clout for consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms, as findings from Web researcher comScore add still another feather to the cap of online advertising.

The research, conducted in conjunction with offline researcher Knowledge Networks and involving a 50,000-person survey, found that online advertisements increased purchase intent, brand awareness and advertising awareness for Nestle Purina PetCare Co., a subsidiary of food products giant Nestle.

Similar research was released last week by online ad player DoubleClick , which conducted its own study with researcher Information Resources, Inc. , Unilever and other CPG firms.

According to comScore, consumers exposed to banner ads from Purina were almost 50 percent more likely to name the brand as the first dog food brand that came to mind. Among participants that received one to five impressions, brand awareness rose from 22.3 percent to 28.2 percent; among those receiving six to 20 impressions, awareness rose to 35.4 percent.

An ad specifically for Purina Puppy Chow increased its recognition from 7.8 percent to a combined average of 19 percent.

The study also found that that ads increased consumer consideration for Purina ONE dog food among dog owners. Participants who didn’t see ads ranked their likelihood for considering Purina ONE as 46 percent, but that figure increased to an average of 61.8 percent after seeing ads. Meanwhile, participants citing Purina ONE as a brand that they wouldn’t consider purchasing dropped from 47.2 percent to 32.4 percent.

Purchase intent for Purina ONE increased from 23.6 percent to 34.7 percent for participants receiving a maximum of five impressions, and to 38.4 percent for those receiving six to 20 exposures.

The research also determined that consumers actually remembered elements from the banners they were served. Among the respondents — dog owners and non-owners alike — 5.5 percent recalled seeing a Purina ad in unaided tests after having received one to five impressions. Nearly as many (5.1 percent) recalled the ad after six to 20 impressions. Among dog owners, the increase rose to 6.3 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

That’s an important finding for the online advertising industry, since part of the concerns associated with advertising on the Web has been a long-held belief that consumer rarely even take notice of banner ads.

Indeed, much research recently has focused on the branding ability of online campaigns using a variety of ad units — many of which, like skyscrapers and so-called “large rectangles,” were introduced by the Interactive Advertising Bureau last year to provide more branding opportunities than were believed possible with banners.

But with the deployment of banner campaigns beginning to fall in favor of larger ad units, the new research would seem to indicate that even the lowly, aging ad format can still produce sizable — and measurable — results for advertisers.

“This data reinforces the impact of online advertising in supporting our brands,” said Michael Moore, worldwide director of Purina Interactive at Nestlé Purina PetCare. “Overall, online media are effective, efficient and unique platforms for communicating brand benefits to our most valuable consumers.”

Other conclusions in the research also supported the institution of using a company or brand Web site as vehicle to communicate with customers. According to the study, existing Purina dog food buyers were between 30 percent to 60 percent more likely to visit than the average Web user — suggesting a useful platform for customer retention efforts.

“The comScore analysis has validated our hypothesis that Purina Web sites support our brands with consumers,” Moore said.

comScore said that it plans further research in connection with Knowledge Networks to gather more detailed information on the impact of Web ads on offline buying habits.

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