More Proof Bigger May Not Be Better For Display

imageAs my colleague David Kaplan notes, some of the most recent “innovations” in display have focused on creating bigger, flashier ads in the hopes of sparking greater user interaction. But new research from ad-targeting and optimization firm Lotame finds that bigger banners don’t necessarily increase engagement. In fact, the study found that medium-sized “rectangle” units hold visitors’ attention far longer their longer, wider counterparts.

Lotame studied roughly 150 million of the ads it served this year, finding that users spent an average of 13 seconds viewing a 300 x 250 “medium rectangle” unit. In contrast, time spent viewing 720 x 90 “leaderboards” (or wide banners at the top of the page) came in at just 5.4 seconds, and users barely glanced at 160 x 600 “skyscraper” ads (long columns on the side, pictured here) for 1.9 seconds.

Of course, there are mitigating factors to consider when gauging this data: First, “time spent” is just one metric — Lotame didn’t track other stats like click-through rates or purchase intent; second, the company primarily serves ads to social media-oriented sites, where display ads tend to perform poorly overall. But the research still goes head-to-head with the notion that leaderboards and skyscrapers should automatically command higher CPM rates than smaller rectangles by virtue of their size (and potential for user exposure); it also calls into question whether the trend toward just making ads bigger is the direction display needs to head in. Release.

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