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Web ad study boosts banners

The Internet Advertising Bureau releases a study that challenges the prevalent view that banners don't work for branding.

The Internet Advertising Bureau released an independent study today that claims Web banner ads can be an effective way for advertisers to reach Internet users, challenging the prevalent view that banners don't work for branding.

The study, which involved 16,758 respondents at a dozen major Web sites, found high levels of ad banner awareness among participants. It also found that a single exposure to an ad banner boosted awareness dramatically and significantly affected brand perception. It also found banner ads increased a Web user's intent to buy.

"Those are the triumvirate measures in traditional media," said Rich LeFurgy, senior vice president of ESPN/ABC News Internet Ventures and president of the IAB, an association of ad-supported Web sites and Internet services.

Those findings may help publishers deflect pressure from advertisers that want to pay based on the "click-through rate," a measure of how many users click on a banner ad. Major advertisers, including giant consumer products marketer Procter & Gamble, have pushed click-throughs as a way to pay only for ads clicked by users.

The study was conducted in June by advertising research firm MBinteractive, a division of Millward Brown International, a major advertising research firm. In the study, half of the respondents were shown a test ad and the other half a different or control ad banner.

The IAB said found that exposure to ad banners was responsible for 96 percent of ad awareness, while click-throughs contributed only 4 percent.

That finding means ad banners not only are a direct marketing tool to drive users to advertisers' Web sites but also are valuable for branding, according to Rex Briggs, MBinteractive vice president.

"We need to look at being more thoughtful as to whether we're talking about advertising or direct marketing objectives," said Le Furgy. "Those are different goals that people lump together."

The study also asked Web users for their overall views about online advertising, finding that 55 percent of participants were positive on Web ads. In addition, 63 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed that companies that advertise on the Web are more forward-thinking than those that don't.

Millward Brown also did a research project for HotWired in late December and more recently did a study on the effectiveness of interstitial ads--which pop up on users' screens while waiting for new Web pages to download--for Berkeley Systems.

Web sites participating in the study included CNN, CompuServe, ESPN SportsZone, Excite, Geocities, HotWired, Looksmart, Lycos, Macworld, National Geographic Online, Pathfinder, and Ziff-Davis.

The IAB study tested ads from a range of industries, including consumer packaged goods and financial services. Users were randomly reached as they linked to any of the 12 Web sites.

The Online Advertising Effectiveness Study can be viewed at the IAB's Web site.