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#1 Paid Search Positions Increases Brand Awareness
July 16, 2004
Contrary to generally held industry beliefs, sponsored text advertising does work for a number of branding objectives, according to a massive study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
The study was done online with more than 10,500 participants using a controlled experimental design. It measured the brand impact of sponsored and contextual listings in the health, auto, beverage, electronics, retail and finance industries. On average, respondents were 27% more likely to name a specific brand if it was in the top spot on the search results page, according to the study.
Contextual listings, which are text ads on non-search pages, caused a 23% lift among respondents. Placement was a key element. Ads in the top position on the search results page increased an aggregate of all the brand metrics by an average of 14% across the six industries. The effect fell dramatically as rankings went lower, the study found. For example, ads in the fifth position showed only a minor directional lift. Sponsored listings and contextual advertising, sold on a cost-per-click basis, are usually not considered to be branding vehicles. By contrast, display ads, sold on a cost-per-impression basis, are considered major elements of online branding. The study was sponsored by Ask Jeeves, Google, ING, Lycos Search and Overture and spearheaded by the IAB search engine committee.
Industry players' reactions to the study differed. "It makes sense. If a consumer is searching for keywords related to a certain brand or product, and they consistently see a certain brand or company appear, they will be more likely to recall the brand," said Melissa Burgess, director of business development at search marketing firm Impaqt. "Companies are purchasing hundreds, thousands of keywords. If a consumer sees them every time, it will make an impression." A media buyer opined that sponsored text is a viable, but minor, element of online branding. "While it is certainly true that 'everything communicates,' it is very hard to believe that when compared to rich sight, sound and motion vehicles, text-based advertising is effective at moving brand metrics," said David Cohen, SVP, Interactive Media Director for Universal McCann Interactive. "I would be very surprised if brand marketers look to sponsored text as a primary staple of their interactive programs," Cohen said. "Rather, I would view sponsored text as a viable component (albeit a small one) of a well-balanced interactive brand campaign."