People Prefer Big, Interruptive Web Ads

New research flies in the face of the native trend

So much for blending in. 

While the online ad industry falls deeper in love with native ads that fade into the background of Web pages, consumers prefer ads that get in their face by taking over their computer screens.

At least, that’s according to a new study on high-impact ads conducted by Ipsos ASI on behalf of Undertone.

The study, which surveyed more than 3,000 panelists last September, examined a slew of the homepage takeover-type units that came on the scene in a big way several years ago as more Web publishers were seeking bigger brand budgets. These ad types, while endorsed by the likes of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Online Publishers Association, have seemingly gone out of vogue these days as more advertisers push for native units that look and feel like Web content.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Undertone and Ipsos found bigger ads drove more brand recall, since consumers are likely to remember big ads that interrupt their Web surfing. But it is surprising that respondents said they liked full-screen takeovers the best. These ads received likability scores that were 30 to 49 percent higher than standard display units, according to Undertone.

Based on the attributes that scored highest among respondents who were asked to describe full-screen takeover ad units, people seemed to gravitate to these ads' buzzy/this-is-a-big-deal nature. People were 90 percent more likely to agree that these full-screen units are “an ad people will talk about” compared to other display ads, and 86 percent found them to be more entertaining. Similarly, respondents were 79 percent more likely to find these ads “unique” and 78 percent more likely to credit these ads with “making me want to learn more about the product or brand.”

"While it may seem somewhat counterintuitive that full-screen takeovers got the highest likability score, we weren't surprised," said Undertone co-founder Eric Franchi. "Great advertising means great creative, and takeovers help that creative break through very effectively." 

One word of caution: This study primarily focuses on display ads—that is, it compared high-impact display ads with standard banners. Native was not part of the research. It would be interesting to see what consumers thought of native ads vs. full-screen takeovers, if given the choice.

Undertone plans to present this research at the Advertising Research Foundation's Re: Think conference and Adtech San Francisco, both in March.