OPA, comScore Teamed to Tout Banner Ad Value

In a desperate fight against a performance-obsessed advertising culture, and facing an anemic market for display ads, the Web publishing world is fighting back.

The Online Publisher’s Association and comScore have teamed up to help fight for the value of the much-maligned banner with the release of an elaborate research study dubbed The Silent Click: Building Brands Online. The extensive report mirrors recent efforts by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Microsoft and other industry leaders looking to wean brands off judging every single online campaign by its click-through rate.

To do so, the OPA leveraged comScore’s million-plus person panel to analyze 80 branding campaigns which ran on 200 high-trafficked Web sites across multiple content categories earlier this year. Among the A-List brands tracked were campaigns run by Dunkin Donuts, American Express, Disney Vacations, Honda, T-Mobile and Fidelity.

The gist of this research boils down to this: while branded display ads rarely induce click-throughs, they are impactful. Specifically, the OPA found that exposure to display ads induced users to conduct searches (one in five respondents did so), visit advertisers’ sites (spending 50 percent more time on these sites than users that were not exposed to ads), and shop for products online (spending 10 percent more than average users).

“There are more relevant ways to measure the branding impact of online ad campaigns beyond clicks, which is a direct response metric,” reads the report.

For example, for a set of campaigns run on sports sites, 19 percent of those exposed to display ads searched for those brands, while 28 percent of those exposed visited those brands sites. Among those who visited these advertisers’ sites, the exposed group consumed 20 percent more pages than did the average visitor. Though the results varied by content type, the patterns were similar in most categories, found the study.

The OPA report is very much in line with the sort of learnings that Microsoft has unearthed with its Engagement Mapping product, which aims at better attributing credit to display ads (and indirectly discrediting search ads to a degree). Perhaps not surprisingly, besides defend display ads, the report also touts the power of branded content sites (rather than say, ad networks). “Environment matters,” says the report. “There are differences in audience composition and behavior of those exposed to display advertising on content sites.”

To promote these findings, The OPA is planning to kick off a tour starting on June 18 in San Francisco, during which they’ll present the report to various ad agencies and marketers.