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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Greg Stuart

Maybe I am missing something but this potentially feels like some of the misleading data on ad impact I've seen in a longtime. If I get the press release right, Lotame is able to monitor when an ad is in view. Not that the viewer is actually looking at the ad, as the story at first lead me to believe.

Also, this has nothing to do with ad size, but has to do with page placement of the ad, which I think Lotame press release says but may not make as clear to eliminate possible confusion. The leaderboard, nearly always at the top, will scroll off the top of the screen sometimes whereas the rectangle, usually 1/3 to 1/2 way down will more often be in view. Net, it’s based on probability, not impact.

What also I don't see addressed here is the real value of engagement (which is a pet peeve of mine). There is no research I am aware of that proves engagement improves ad effectiveness. First because engagement is so poorly defined by the industry. It seems that Lotame has positioned it potentially properly but Tameka has appears to picked up the buzzword engagement, and given it more factual basis than it deserves, in my opinion.

Happy to hear around thoughts but this seems to be an example of guns' don't kill people, people do, or "press releases don't mis-represent information, but reporters writing hastily can".

Other's POV?

PS Also, I thought I saw that OPA's larger ads stay present no matter where the viewer scrolls, which would get around the issue that above suggests.

Tameka Kee

Tim, duly noted. I'll see if I can grab a better picture of a traditional skyscraper.


Tim D'Avis

300×250 ads are bigger in terms of area than either 728×90 banners.

Your graphic is misleading – it shows a 300×600 banner instead of the 160×600 banners that the report mentions.

Placement on the page matters more than size, it's true – 300×250 banners are usually more in the line of sight of a viewer than the other formats you mentioned.

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