Thursday, December 10, 2009

Research Creates Better Strategies for Web Advertising

In the early days of television, advertisers had no idea how to capture audience attention in the new medium. The only precursor to TV advertising was print or radio ads, so they did the best they could to use those experiences and apply them to an entirely new focus.

Today, we’re looking at a similar problem with web advertising. We know print ads. We know TV ads. But do we know web ads?

Research being conducted by the Walt Disney Company suggests that we don’t know it nearly as well as we think. In the research labs, volunteers are asked to scroll through websites while researchers observe them through one-way glass, recording the movements of their eyes as they track objects and text on the screen. One ad catches the reader’s attention. Another goes by unnoticed. What made the difference?

That’s what the Disney researchers are attempting to discover.

Their methods are fairly straightforward, trying out different combinations of ad types and sizes in different places on the web page to see which are most effective at capturing and holding attention. The research also includes keeping records of heart rate, skin temperature, and facial expressions so that enthusiasm can be recorded.

The Starcom MediaVest Group considers Disney’s research “invaluable,” and Allstate, Kellogg and Bank of America are also getting in on the action.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting Around the TiVo Ad Problem

Cable TV networks have long bemoaned TiVo as a way for their consumers to get around watching regular advertisements. And lately, they’ve also been getting a lot of pressure to put their shows online for free as many stations and networks already do – a double whammy for advertising and a serious threat to the cable networks’ profits.

Comcast is bouncing back with a double whammy of its own: In a test of consumer response, it’s launching several TV shows from a handful of major media companies – including CBS and Time Warner – into online venues. The catch? You can’t watch them unless you’re already a cable subscriber, and the online shows have the full panoply of advertisements, just as they would if you watched them on the tube.

There’s some argument as to whether consumers will accept the new dynamic after having been introduced to full-length TV shows, including many cable network shows, in an online forum for free. Beyond the cost issue, one of the benefits of watching a TV show online thus far has been the drastically shortened advertisements.

In a 30-minute show, for instance, viewers might see only two minutes’ worth of commercials – that’s about 8-10 minutes less than their normal exposure to commercials during the course of a show that length.

TV networks are working on finding a happy medium. More ads than the current brief spots might still be palatable to consumers. After all, fewer ads are still fewer ads – even if those online spots get a little longer than they are currently, they’ll still beat out their TV counterparts.