Peter Kafka

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Bang! Publishers Say Giant Web Ads Have “Stopping Power”

Bigger really is better!

So say Web publishers who have been running supersized, don’t-you-dare-look-away-from-me ads for the past year.

Even better, the ad sellers insist–they have scientific proof to back up their claim.

That comes via industry trade group Online Publishers Association, which commissioned a cool/creepy test: Monitor Web surfers’ eye movements and emotional responses when they encounter giant ad units like the “XXL” and the “Pushdown.” The study placed surfers in front of sites like the New York Times and showed them big ads from the likes of Microsoft’s Bing.

Short version of the conclusion: Put a really big ad in front of someone, and they’ll notice it.

“They have stopping power,” in the words of OPA president Pam Horan.

Longer take:

  • 96 percent of surfers in the study looked at the giant ads when they showed up onscreen.
  • 67 percent of surfers looked at the giant ads during the first 10 seconds they visited a Web page, then came back and looked at them again.
  • Surfers who looked at giant ads after spending more than 10 seconds on a Web page “generated a stronger emotional response” to the ads than to the stuff on the rest of the page.
  • Surfers liked the ads, giving them a 6.3 ranking out of a possible 9.

No need to tell you how much salt to use when reading research, commissioned by people who sell advertising, that concludes that advertising works. Still, this is interesting stuff. At the very least, you’ll want to skim through the report, embedded below.

For starters, it includes cool/creepy descriptions of the “biometric research” that research firm Innerscope performed for the OPA, which involves contraptions like the ones pictured on the left.

But more broadly, it gives you a sense of what Web publishers are trying to avoid: Advertising that most surfers have learned to ignore after years of training. (Except for Google’s search results ads–they love those, which is why Google posted $2 billion in profits last quarter).

On the other hand, the study doesn’t tell you how the new gigantosorous ads perform compared to run-of-the-mill Web ads. And most important, it doen’t attempt to figure out what marketers most want to know: Whether the new ads–or any Web display ads–actually help them move product.

That one has gone unanswered for 16 years, but it may still be some time before we get an answer.