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Monday, April 25, 2005

Study: Best Online Ads Draw On Print Techniques

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
Study: Best Online Ads Draw On Print Techniques
by Shankar Gupta, Monday, Apr 25, 2005 7:15 AM EST
SOME OF THE BEST WEB ads combine print advertising's use of powerful images that "pop" with animation that quickly draws in viewers and directs their attention toward a message, according to a new study of online ads by CNET Networks, Ignited Minds, and NOP World's Starch Communications.
For the report, expected to be released today, researchers surveyed 8,592 users intercepted at various CNET Network sites, including Gamespot.com and CNET.com. Respondents were asked to view several ads on a mock site, and rate them.
Hoping to fill what he described as a "huge void" in the knowledge of what works and doesn't work in terms of online ad creatives, CNET Chief Marketing Officer Joe Gillespie said that the purpose of the study was to explore which type of ad images are effective on the Web, and help guide advertisers away from running annoying ads that drive consumers from sites.

"Bad advertising really hurts our business. It hurts our user experience, and that's never really been the case before: On TV, you can run bad ads, and frankly, nobody knows," Gillespie said. "In our world, if we're running ads that are irrelevant or intrusive, people show up and tell us about it, or just vote with their feet and don't show up at all."

The study found that a good creative includes powerful images and a simple design; ads also should discuss the benefits of the product, and direct the viewer with a visual flow. One such ad discussed in the report was for "Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines," which was nearly two and a half times more likely than average to be chosen by respondents as "one of the best ads." The creative featured scantily clad cartoon vampires in front of a darkly lit cityscape.

Another ad to score highly was an ad for a Nokia video phone, which illustrated the study's conclusions about visual flow--the ad shows a woman throwing a Frisbee to a dog--drawing the user's attention from the top left to the top right--displaying the tagline "your life, with instant replay"--and then to the bottom right, when at the last moment, a kitten jumps into the air and nabs the Frisbee. The ad loops three times before the picture zooms out to shows the video phone and a link to the product specs.

The report revealed that, at least for gaming ads, the best visuals were drawings--"but very realistic ones," as opposed to exaggerated cartoons.

Gillespie hopes to shift the discussion from whether marketers should advertise online to what that advertising should look like. "We think it's time to have a change of emphasis within the Internet community. We've done a lot about why people need to advertise on the Internet, and now it's time to talk about how to do it and how to do it right," he said.

The survey, however, is not necessarily representative of the average Web browser--Gamespot's audience is 97 percent male with an average age of 25.4 years, and on average spent $1000 on video games in 2004. CNET.com's audience is 79 percent male, with an average age of 37.5 years, and spent $2,584 on consumer electronics in 2004.

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