Tacoda: Web Users Drawn To Out-of-Context Ads

An eye-tracking study commissioned by behavioral targeting company Tacoda has turned up a counterintuitive result: People appear to be more interested in Web ads when those ads are unrelated to the content on a page than when the ads appear in context.

The study, conducted by Next Century Media, found that first exposures to ads for cars, computers, and televisions displayed out of context generated 17 percent more looks than when those ads were shown on pages where the content related to the ads. In an even more surprising finding, after the first exposure--when consumers are expected to tune out ads--out-of-context ads generated 54 percent more looks than in-context ones.

The results indicate that ads unrelated to a page's content generate interest even on repeat viewing, said Tacoda CEO Dave Morgan. "Behavioral advertising does not seem to suffer the same banner burnout when you present these ads out of context," he said.

When Tacoda, Revenue Science, and other behavioral targeting companies arrange for ads to be served to consumers based on their Web-surfing history, the ads are often displayed out of context. For instance, if a consumer reads an article about a car, a behavioral targeting company might classify that person as a potential car-purchaser and then send him a car ad after he has clicked off the car site and is, say, reading about real estate.

For the study, researchers intercepted 30 adult consumers in malls in New Jersey and California; the consumers were in the market for plasma TVs, new cars, and computers, and had researched these products--meaning that they would have been classified as potential buyers by behavioral marketing companies such as Tacoda.

Tacoda and Next Century also looked at response rates to out-of-context ads; those results will be released in about three weeks.

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