Are Dynamic Ads More Effective?

At Compete we’ve recently been digging deeper into online ads. Like our clients, we’ve noticed that banner ads often don’t "click through" like they used to, and we’ve watched the recent outburst in new ad types and are eager to discover which of them will perform best.

As if to aid us in our quest, Toyota recently ran two similar but slightly different ads for its new Venza, enabling a side-by-side comparison of two ad types. The similarly-placed ads, one on the MSN homepage and one on Yahoo!‘s, ran on two successive days. The ad on MSN was visually dynamic, using Flash to animate the unit; the ad on Yahoo! was interactive, with tabs and buttons that opened new content in response to user clicks.

The difference in performance was noticeable: consumers exposed to the Flash ad were three times more likely to go to Toyota.com’s Venza page over the remainder of the day. Case closed. Animation beat interactivity. Right?

Not so fast. Despite the interactive ad’s lower viewthrough rate, the consumers who got to Toyota after seeing that ad were twice as likely to perform lower-funnel actions than folks on Toyota.com who had seen the Flash ad. Apparently, the interactive ad’s lower viewthrough rate was a red herring — perhaps consumers in the "awareness" phase didn’t click through it precisely because it offered more content, and satisfied their appetite for information right there on the page.

Case closed? Hardly. What we found out could be construed as a small revelation about which type is performing best (the Flash ad had an ever-so-slightly higher lower-funnel yield, ultimately). However, we’re more inclined to take these discoveries as a valuable reminder that online ad performance can’t be judged easily within the aperture of a single snapshot. Given what we found by going just one level deeper — i.e., that the ads were very similar in their yields but different in their impact on behavior — now we have no choice but to compare the two ads’ impact over a longer time period and on other behaviors such as search. Check back soon for more!