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Janet Roberts

Online Ads Work! (After a While, Maybe)
By Janet Roberts

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If you publish your newsletter strictly for fun, not profit, you can take the next couple of days off. Everybody else, sit up straight and pay attention, because we are going to dissect the recent spate of surveys showing that online advertising works, but not the way people thought.

The online-marketing world is still buzzing about studies issued last week by Engage and the Internet Advertising Bureau with DoubleClick and MSN, which seemed to validate the Internet as a marketing tool and to caution advertisers not to judge a campaign by its clicks.

Although the studies referred to Web-based ads, the conclusions should transfer to HTML-format newsletters which use many of the same ad formats, such as banners and skyscrapers.

Some marketers have been praising the two studies as the resurrection of the poor beleaguered banner, but those who follow online advertising and marketing aren't breaking out the bubbly yet.

Today, we'll look at the Engage study, which seems to support the move by CBS and others to move away from click-through rates, which had been the standard for measuring campaign success rates. The study looked at the effect of clicks versus impressions on conversion rates, or the rate at which viewers either registered to use a site, asked for information, or bought something.

In general, impressions did better than clicks to generate an activity, according to survey data.

Among the conclusions:

  1. Seventy-five percent of ad conversions came not at the first click but after seeing the ad several times or sometime after seeing the ad, up to a day or so later. (This elicits a "duh!" reaction from seasoned print-ad salespeople but apparently is news to online marketers.) The numbers are similar for U.S. and European users, although Americans tend to be a little more impulsive. (No smart remarks from our international readers, please.)

  2. Users who type in a URL or find a Web site through a search engine are more likely to become repeat customers and to peruse a site more deeply than those who just click on an ad. This also shouldn't be a surprise, because motivated shoppers almost always spend more than walk-ins.

  3. Banner ads (the 480x60-pixel size) are still the most popular format, but users might be more enticed by alternative sizes, such as the new "skyscraper" model. If you don't know what skyscraper ads are, click on the Ezine-Tips home page. The ad on the right is a skyscraper.

Can you see an opportunity here for you? If you want your newsletter ads to direct traffic to your own Web site (those are "house ads" as opposed to paid ads, to steal another print term) you can help yourself by making it as easy as possible for people to get to your site besides clicking on an ad.

Make sure readers can find your site by posting your URL wherever appropriate and activating it with the full address (http://, etc., not just

If you accept paid ads, you can make yourself more valuable by formatting your newsletter to accept alternate sizes. Another possibility: List your advertisers' URLs in a separate section, titled "Please Patronize" or "We Thank Our Sponsors" or "Advertisers in This Issue." Many magazines and some newspapers do that to give advertisers an extra, free boost.

On Wednesday, we'll look at the IAB/DoubleClick/MSN study and how newsletter publishers can use the data.

Ezine-Tips for July 24, 2001

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