Measuring Display Advertising Beyond the Click

For years, Web publishers have had a love-hate relationship with what has become the standard metric for online ad effectiveness: the click. It’s certainly an indication that a prospective customer saw the ad. But surely it’s not the only indication. The problem is that marketers haven’t been able to agree on other metrics for whether an ad was seen, let alone whether it was effective in spurring eventual sales. Publishers clearly think branded display ads can do just that, and they want to get paid for running them even if they don’t get a click.

Now they’re offering up some evidence. A new research study from the Online Publishers Association, conducted by comScore, sheds some new light on the impact of online branding campaigns. To be released on June 18, the study looked at 80 of the biggest campaigns on 200 of the largest Web sites over a month. Some of the results, from the release:

For consumers exposed to brand display ad campaigns, the research found that:

* One in five conduct related searches and one in three visit the brands’ sites.

* Users spent over 50% more time than the average visitor to these sites and consumed more pages.

* Users spent about 10% more money online overall, and significantly more on product categories related to the advertised brands.

* Higher-income audiences visited the advertisers' sites.

The upshot, says OPA President Pam Horan: "There's an opportunity to look at a more effective metric beyond the click," whether that's how many people searched for a brand after seeing a display ad, how many visited advertisers' sites, or how many minutes they spent on the site. "Those exposed to display ads," says Horan, "have shown they're more engaged with the advertiser."

The OPA (of which BusinessWeek Online is a member) is launching a campaign to publicize the results. That doesn't mean display ads are suddenly going to unseat search ads, which really made clicks the common currency of Web advertising, as the most effective advertising to date. But clearly other kinds of ads provide a boost that the click by itself doesn't measure. The question will be whether marketers, who may apply a discount to a study commissioned by the folks who want to get paid more for display ads, will pay up for that.

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