Getting a Read on Viewer Engagement with Online Advertising

Online advertising effectiveness -- findings from Casale Media (2011)One of the great aspects of online advertising is that every jot and tittle of users’ experiences can be tracked and analyzed.

Much of the findings confirm what we might already suspect in terms of the ways people interact with online advertising … but having confirmation and quantification helps in planning and carrying out advertising program tactics.

Take new research conducted by Casale Media, a Canadian-based online advertising network which specializes in promoting brands via banner, rectangle, tower, hover and pop-up ads. The company analyzed nearly 2 billion ad impressions generated during the first quarter of 2011.

Based on this research, Casale has come to three key conclusions:

 Online display ads appearing “above the fold” – in other words, in the area that’s visible before the user starts scrolling the page – are nearly seven times more effective in generating clickthroughs compared to ads appearing below the fold.

 Viewers are three times more likely to “act” on an ad if it is the first or second one they encounter during their web session.

 The more times someone sees a particular ad, the more likely he or she will be to click through and take action. Casale finds that ads served five times to a user are 12 to 14 times more effective than ads shown less frequently.

The Casale conclusions support the findings of other studies utilizing eye-tracking data, where it’s been found that site visitors spend the vast majority of their time looking at information positioned within the web page’s initially viewable zone.

As for the finding that ads served to users later in their browsing session are much less likely to get attention and be acted upon … industry practitioners refer to this as “banner blindness.” It’s a phenomenon that has an antecedent in the print magazine world, where “far forward” positions were often the place everyone wanted to be.

And as for greater ad frequency generating more viewer actions, this also mirrors the offline advertising world, where multiple ad exposures are needed to achieve a degree of familiarity and to “register” with users.

Awareness and familiarity are the first steps in generating action. Of course, too much frequency can be counterproductive – but again, the tracking capabilities of online advertising enable marketers to experiment with different exposure levels to determine the optimum frequency that’ll generate the best level of engagement.

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