USAToday.com Study Pans Floating Ads
Study findings recently released by USAToday.com shed light on the delicate balance between format effectiveness and consumer preference. USAToday.com commissioned customer experience management firm, Vividence to conduct its Ad Effectiveness Study with a few goals in mind, including determining how different ad formats reflect on the advertiser as well as the USAToday.com brand, and providing a basis for the hunch that running intrusive ad formats for the sake of intrusiveness doesn’t work in the long run.
“We don’t want to set policy in a vacuum,” asserts Laryssa Kundanmal, director of sales solutions at USAToday.com. “Most publishers do that.”
From August 5-8, 200 panelists representing USAToday.com’s average user demographic groups used Vividence’s browser-like application to perform ordinary tasks such as looking at the day’s sports headlines or reading a film review. They were exposed randomly to four different ad formats: an interstitial, a floating animation, a pop-under, and USAToday.com’s proprietary Sliding Billboard unit (a large, wide format that settles into a very narrow, horizontal, expandable placement after a few seconds). All panelists had Macromedia Flash 5 or higher installed, and all ads consisted generally of the same copy and creative which promoted a brand “X” phone product.
The Vividence application retrieved behavioral and attitudinal data by tracking user interaction and responses to questions such as, “How willing are you to purchase products from the advertiser?” and “What do you think of the advertiser?”
The key question -- “If you had to see advertising, what form would you most like to see it in?” --garnered the results USAToday.com had desired. The Sliding Billboard was the most preferred ad format, creating the highest customer satisfaction and purchase/research intent. According to Jeff Greenberg, president and CEO of Vividence, 80% of the panelists noticed the Sliding Billboard ad. And, while the pop-under was the second most preferred format, the floating animation was found to be the least preferred and most intrusive, achieving most negative brand effect status.
The study also found that “USAToday.com readers don’t like ads that cover content or force users to click to skip to content.”
Does USAToday.com have a beef with floating ads? Clarifies Kundanmal, “We don’t have a problem with floating animations per se, but the level of intrusiveness now has ramped up.”
“The brand metrics over time are not as good,” adds USAToday.com’s director of marketing, Susan Lavington, in reference to interstitials and floating ad formats.
Still, format preference and ad effectiveness are two different things. Afterall, comments Nick Nyhan, president of ad effectiveness measurement firm Dynamic Logic, “The truth is people prefer no ads.” He concludes, “Ad effectiveness should be measured by the advertiser’s goal, not by the consumer’s desire for the ad.”
In the end, the most liked ad unit may not satisfy advertiser needs, which leaves publishers to struggle between pleasing their audiences and bolstering the bottom line.
Affirms Lavington, “We’ve got to balance the user experience with the advertiser experience.”