Get Noticed with Interactive Advertising

Originally published
Originally published: 2/1/2010

How to make customer connections online.

As the Internet becomes more popular, more people are spending more time online, gathering the information they need to help them make purchasing decisions.

Aware of this trend, advertisers, too, are embracing online opportunities. In fact, according to a recent report released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Internet advertising revenues totaled $10.9 billion during the first half of 2009.

Starting an online advertising campaign does not have to be difficult. As with any campaign, an online campaign requires a clear understanding of who you are, the message you want to convey, the customer you intend to reach, and the desired results. For example, are you asking viewers to make a purchase? Or would you like them to request information, schedule a sales call, sign up for a newsletter, or enter a contest?

To take full advantage of an online campaign, it's also important to understand exactly what online advertising is — the options available to you, the benefits it offers, the ways to measure its effectiveness, and the associated costs.

What is Online Display Advertising? 

Online advertising or display advertising is any kind of paid advertisement that appears on the World Wide Web. Content is totally controlled by the advertiser, just as it is in print or broadcast media, and should include a clear, simple message that supports your brand. Images, text, and logos can be incorporated in the layout, depending on the shape and ad size you select. Formats vary, and sizes (measured in pixels, the smallest item of information in a digital image) have been standardized by the IAB to include:

Banner (468 x 60): A horizontal ad that can appear almost anywhere on a Web page, the banner ad was one of the first formats to be standardized. The size accommodates a short brand message, but it is easily ignored. 

Leaderboard (728 x 90): Leaderboards are also horizontal in shape and typically appear at the top of a Web page. Often more expensive, they are also larger and more noticeable on a page.

Rectangle or boom box (300 x 250): These rectangular ads can be embedded in Web page content and are particularly effective when the product or service they promote is relevant to the content that surrounds them.

Skyscraper (120 x 600): As its name implies, a skyscraper ad is vertical and usually appears on the right-hand side of a Web page. Long and narrow, the ad tends to be more effective and less intrusive than other formats. 

Button or tile (125 x 125): Buttons are small, relatively inexpensive ads that display logos or concise branding expressions.  

Location, Location, Location

All of these examples of online display advertising share the same objective: to drive prospective customers to your Web site. The ability of an advertisement to do that depends not only on the format you select, but also the position of the ad on the Web page. 

When purchasing newspaper advertising, the goal is to secure placement "above the fold," on the top half of the printed page and preferably close to the main headline of the page. Similarly, an online advertisement is more effective if it is visible on a Web site before a visitor begins to scroll down the page. Ads that appear within the actual content of a Web page also tend to be more successful in terms of being noticed and producing clicks. 

Curb Appeal

A well-placed advertisement also needs "curb appeal" if it is going to increase traffic to your Web site. In many cases, you have just one second to attract a user to your ad. So, the more engaging an ad is, the more likely it is to spark the interest of users and encourage them to spend a significant amount of time interacting with your brand, either within the ad or on your Web site after click-through.

A strong headline can capture the attention of visitors to a Web site, and an advertisement with a colored background is more likely to stand out from the clutter of the page.

The use of rich (interactive) media further and perhaps most effectively enhances an ad's ability to engage those who see it. Rich media advertisements are those with which users can interact. Examples of enhanced ads that attract attention and invite interaction include:

Floating ads: These free-form ads display over a page. In most cases, they are eye-catching and hard to avoid.

Expandable banner ads: These ads expand or grow in size after users click on them or pass a mouse over them.

Page peels: Page peels reveal a glimpse of an ad in a top corner of the Web page. When the viewer hovers over it, the rest of the ad "peels" down to reveal a more expansive ad message.

Video/audio ads: The addition of video or audio files enhances an otherwise static ad and encourages interaction.

Whether or not you incorporate rich media in your advertisement, remember the basics of effective online advertising as you work on content and design. First, feature your brand prominently on every frame of the ad. Second, keep your message simple, and third, engage the user with a strong, clear call to action. The call to action could be as simple as "learn more," "get started," or "buy now." In the end, the ad should be designed to produce a desired result, not just entertain.

Pay Now or Pay Later

Advertising agencies as well as some local newspapers, television, and radio stations can help you create one or a series of online display ads with a professional look, identify regional Web sites frequented by homeowners, and place the ads for you. The cost to produce and place the ads varies considerably, not only by market, but also by the type of ad you create, its size, and its content.

The pricing model a marketer uses also impacts cost. While some sites offer flat-rate pricing, charging a fixed or flat rate for an ad placed on specific areas of the Web site, many use either a pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) pricing structure.

As the name implies, a pay-per-click pricing program means you as the advertiser pay a flat rate every time someone clicks on your ad. A cost-per-impression program charges the advertiser based on the number of times an ad appears or is viewed on a Web site. In most cases, you pay a quoted amount per thousand impressions. So, the more visitors a site receives, the more expensive an ad becomes. For example, an ad placed on a national network Web site will be more expensive than placing that same ad on a local news or community Web site.

Measuring Online Success 

Wherever you place your ad, the Web site you choose should be able to provide you with metrics that will help determine the effectiveness of the site. When evaluating a Web site, you should consider the following:


  • Impressions or volume metrics measure the level of traffic on a site. The higher your ad impressions, the more times your ad is displayed.
  • Unique users or audience reach measures the true reach of the site — the number of unduplicated visitors who view one or more pages of a site.
  • Engagement measures — the average number of pages a user visits, the average time spent on the site, and the bounce rate for the site. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave a site after looking at just one page.


When evaluating the success of your online ad campaign, look at the response metrics. Response metrics measure the number of clicks and the click-through rate (the number of clicks divided by the number of ad impressions), in-unit engagement (engagement that does not require the user to leave the site) and the mouse-over or roll-over rate (additional information is revealed when the user's mouse comes into contact with the ad).

You should expect this information to be provided by the site that displays your ad. But you should also have an analytics package as part of your own Web site that will, for example, help you determine where traffic to your site is originating. Is it coming from another site that is displaying your ad? Is it coming from a search engine? Or is it coming from a link on a related site? 

In the end, perhaps the number you are most interested in is the conversion rate. This number tells you how effective an ad is at achieving the desired result you already identified. It can be calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the number of unique visitors to your site.

Using this information, you can carefully create an effective online advertising campaign that markets your products and services to a regional or global audience, increasing traffic to your Web site in the process. When integrated into a strategic marketing program, online advertising can help build brand awareness, create interest in your brand and drive prospective customers to your Web site.

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