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More than half of internet users (52%) actively respond to display advertising on ad-supported websites, and among them, almost as many initially respond to an ad by conducting a search as those who click on the ad, according to a study from iProspect, conducted by Forrester Consulting.

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Results from iProspect’s “Search Engine Marketing and Online Display Advertising Integration Study” suggest a much closer relationship between search and online display than many marketers might think, iProspect said, noting that internet users initially respond to online display advertising as follows:

  • 31% respond by directly clicking on an ad.
  • 27% respond by searching for the product, brand, or company by launching a search on a search engine.
  • 21% respond by typing the company web address into their browser and directly navigating to the website.
  • 9% respond by investigating the product, brand, or company through social media venues.

“The key message from this study is that online display advertising is far from dead – its 31% direct response rate confirms that,” said Robert Murray, CEO, iProspect. “However, it is interesting to see that almost as many people initially respond to display ads by performing a search as those who actually click on an ad. In essence, search becomes an alternative mechanism for internet users to respond to online display.”

Murray added that marketers might want to consider search as a form of “insurance” for their investment in display advertising.

The Latency Effect

The study also examined consumer behavior that takes place after the initial response to a display ad and found that nearly half of internet users who respond to online ads eventually perform a search related to an ad they see.

When asked how they eventually respond to an ad, nearly half of internet users (49%) who respond to online display ads launch a search on a search engine for the company, product, or brand that was the focus of the ad to which they were exposed. This figure includes those who eventually perform a search and visit the website from the search results (38%), those who do the same but actually purchase the product (14%), and those who perform a search but do not click on any of the results (11%).

“This underscores the close relationship between search and online display advertising,” said Misty Locke, president, Range Online Media, and chief strategy officer, iProspect. “First, it speaks to the power of display to drive search, and it demonstrates search’s ability to boost the effectiveness of display. However, it also quantifies the risk associated with not supporting the display channel with search engine marketing. ”

Other study findings:

  • Familiarity breeds response: One third of Internet users (33%) who respond to online display advertising eventually purchase from a company/offering with which they are familiar – more than twice the number who eventually purchase after learning of an offering/company for the first time from online display advertising (14%).

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  • 38% who respond to online display advertising learn about a brand for the first time as a result of their exposure to this type of ad.

About the study: In January 2009, Forrester Consulting designed and fielded a survey to Internet users via the e-Rewards Consumer Online OmniPulse Omnibus. A total of 1,575 individuals responded to the survey. Respondents were asked three questions about their behaviors and preferences as they relate to online search and display advertising. The samples were? balanced by a series of demographic characteristics to ensure that they were representative of the US adult online population (ages 18+). The sample framework was selected based on US Census data for age, ethnicity, gender, region, and income.

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