A Closer Look at Digital Ad Creative

“Creative” seems to be one of those evergreen topics in media. Whether we’re in the midst of another creative renaissance, we’re still arguing about programmatic creative, or the IAB is overhauling the ad portfolio yet again – there’s always a debate about which formats work best in digital. The ad blocking phenomenon has further contributed to the industry trying just about everything to understand how to keep consumers happy while ensuring advertiser dollars are still flowing in.

While the team at AUSAM has some strong opinions about the topic, we thought it would be useful to share and consider some of the findings from a recent Kargo study showing consumers’ response to common mobile advertising formats. For the study Kargo worked with MediaScience to measure eye movement, heart rate, electrodermal activity (the amount of moisture in the respondent’s skin) along with self-reported attitudinal responses.

More study methodology details

Kargo looked at mobile interstitials, 300x250 units delivered in-feed, 320x50 adhesion banners at the bottom of the screen and a proprietary Kargo unit – the sidekick. (The sidekick is an animated 140x140 unit that adheres to the bottom right corner of the screen) The findings were: consumers easily ignored the adhesion banner, the interstitial had high view and excitement rates, and that the 300x250 in-feed unit and Sidekick had the high views, excitement, and favorability. For the last two units users often finished the publisher content before returning to evaluate the ad.

Summary of the study findings by ad type

Moreover, both the 300x250 and interstitial had similar views (fixations above) and both showed an increase in electrodermal activity (or excitement, as we’re calling it) but survey responses further clarified that the increased “excitement” for interstitials was actually aggravation and views were high as users struggled to figure out how to get rid of the ad. The longer the interstitial was on screen the higher the electrodermal activity and frustration in survey responses. The increase in “excitement” for the 300x250 could be the users’ initial surprise/response to seeing the ad in the middle of content, as survey responses did not report users being frustrated or aggravated with that ad experience.

Hilariously enough, “high-impact” ad formats did not lead to any significant increase in brand recall. Also there was no observed or reported brand halo or fallout effect from users tying positive or negative ad experiences to brand sentiment. However, we’d be very curious to know if there’s a halo/fallout effect tied to the publishers who use more intrusive or interruptive ad formats. We’ve certainly had moments where we’ve abandoned sites due to horrible ad experiences and simply read a similar story or recap on another site. The number one response on this Hubspot recap says it all:

This leaves us with a lot to consider. First of all, if you had just looked at “views”, “interaction rates” or other simpler measures of engagement you would be led to believe that the interstitial was the superior format. It’s only when you look at the ad experience through the lens of a user (who wants your takeover to go away so they can get to the content they thought they were clicking on) that a very different picture emerges. And while it’s not realistic for everyone to do controlled lab testing for their digital creative before each campaign, there are plenty of tools that already exist which could get us closer:

  • CTR – if you are looking at CTR for your ads you should also be tying those clicks to your site reporting. Of the clicks logged in the ad server how many users made it to the site? How many of them bounced right away? Were those clicks really just “fat fingers” or users trying to click OUT of the ad? The more information you evaluate the better you’ll be able to understand the consumer's intentions.
  • Eye tracking/heat maps – many vendors offer ad engagement reporting such as mouse tracking, heat maps, click maps, etc. Look at those. Is the bulk of interaction occurring on the corners/edges of the ad? (Again potentially signaling that your users are trying to figure out how to close or skip your ad) Are they focused on your branding? On a hero image or maybe an offer? Insights like this help you understand what people are viewing/clicking.
  • Performance by pub and audience – are you looking at opt-outs, skip rates and close rates by publisher and audience? Areas where exits, bounce rates, unsubscribes, etc. are high could signal that you are paying for ads on a publisher who is delivering a poor ad experience or that you’re targeting the wrong audiences and you could refine your messaging or targeting strategy. There are many ways to look at the data we already have from a new lens for better results.

And while we have already blamed the ad blocking phenomenon on shitty remarketing campaigns, the information above seems to be proof that there’s definitely more to the story than that. Seriously, does anyone really like outstream???

Long live digital creative,

Team AUSAM