Beautiful Ads Work -- What a Concept!

Contrary to a popular notion in some digital ad circles today, intrusive ads can be highly effective.  The proviso is that they be done right.  This is the same principle that has guided the success of intrusive advertising in legacy media for many decades.  Recently, the IAB conducted in-depth research on the effectiveness of IAB Rising Stars display ad units, and the findings demonstrated that big, intrusive ads on digital screens do build brands. 

The report proves once again that evergreen criteria for intrusive ads to be effective still apply:

  • Be visually appealing.
  • Capture the gaze and the heart.
  • Impart information and don't overtly hard sell.
  • Tell a story.

In addition, the research substantiates that ad interactivity builds brands.  When we embarked on the research development, we wanted to test a simple hypothesis:  Interactivity can be shown to have a high correlation with brand lift.  From multiple prior studies, we knew that Display Rising Stars garner higher interaction rates and dwell times.  It stands to reason that high interaction rates should signify something more than curiosity or fascination with the ad itself.  By the same token, the history of ad effectiveness research has shown us that compelling ads can be compelling in and of themselves, without always being successful at brand-building.



How did we get to the proof points?  Working with C3Research, we designed a multiphase research program that compared the same creative messaging for a brand in its legacy banner (a legacy Universal Ad Package, or UAP, ad) to its Rising Stars version.  We tested ads for over a half a dozen brands using three methods:  eyetracking,  a survey questionnaire of a national sample of 1515 respondents, and qualitative interviews.  Respondents completed surveys after browsing test websites, thus ensuring naturalistic behaviors and controlling for extraneous variables. 

The overarching findings are that the display Rising Stars ads demonstrated major strides versus legacy UAP ads, including:

  • 4X higher recall
  • 3X higher interaction rates
  • 5X longer gaze duration
  • 29.5% higher brand lift measured by brand equity change after exposure to ad

What exactly about ad interactivity facilitates brand lift?  We learned that interactivity done right has core components:

  • Provide a multidimensional experience: users see layers of information in aesthetically pleasing ways that encourage learning more about the brand.
  • Provide a controlled ad viewing experience that allows consumers to skip to the piece relevant to them. They opt to scroll, view and use the ad features and information as they see fit.

The research is compelling, and there are additional lessons essential to understanding how the Rising Stars work to build brands and how they enhance the ad and the brand experience.  For me, the fact that beautiful, intrusive ads work and that interactivity is empirically linked to brand lift is the best of all possible outcomes.  Rising Stars ad units open a new aesthetic for online advertising: large, beautiful canvases that capture the power of digital media.

7 comments about "Beautiful Ads Work -- What a Concept!".
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  1. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, March 17, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    The statistics are interesting, but didn't the report also say that Brand Awareness wasn't affected?? Isn't increasing Brand Awareness & Preference the key reason for advertising -- that, and selling product??

  2. peter minnium from na, March 17, 2015 at 7:32 p.m.

    My reading is that recall (i.e. awareness) is four times higher--per the article above.

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, March 18, 2015 at 5:11 p.m.

    Any details about "4x higher than what?". If it's the difference between 10% and 40% that's impressive. If it's the difference between .5% and 2% then I'm yawning...

  4. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , March 19, 2015 at 12:05 p.m.

    Doug- the comparison is against ads in IAB Universal Ad Package that are usually not HTML5 (std animated banners) that don't have the interactivity features of a Rising Star.

  5. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, March 19, 2015 at 4:47 p.m.

    Thanks. But that doesn't tell us order of magnitude - so I still can't tell if 4x is significant. This is a key research error in medical research where "2x more likely" often means "we had 2 groups of 10,000. One person was sick in one group and two were sick in the other". In a case like that, the 2x is meaningless.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 19, 2015 at 5:32 p.m.

    Doug's point is perfectly valid-----% higher than what? Also, to what extent does this study replicate the normal consumer exposure situation? Finally, are the bases for these increases the same? Or are the much higher recall, gaze and interaction rates only applicable to a small segment of the "audience"?

  7. peter minnium from na, March 20, 2015 at 12:19 p.m.

    Thanks for the comments. I'm the father of the Rising Stars at the IAB and would like to invite you to attend the full debriefing on this research April 24th at the IAB in NYC. Please register on the iab website under events. Also, this research will be published in one of the top research journals (can't disclose more at this point), which will further validate the findings. Thanks for getting involved!

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