An Integrated Review of the Efficacy of Internet Advertising: Concrete Approaches to the Banner Ad Format and the Context of Social Networks
Advertising investment on the Internet is currently growing at a faster rate than in all other means of communication. Specifically, companies’ integrated marketing communications (IMC) are using the Internet as a main means of advertising and, increasingly, social networks as part of their communication strategies. Given their growing importance, this chapter performs an exhaustive theoretical analysis of the efficacy of online advertising. First, we perform a detailed inventory of the main forms of advertising used on the Web and social networking sites. Afterward, we analyze the variables shown, through literature, to be most influential on online advertising effectiveness, paying special attention to the banner ad format. Next, the topic of advertising effectiveness in the specific context of social network sites is discussed. In conclusion, some relevant implications for practitioners and research opportunities are presented.
KeywordsAdvertising effectiveness Internet advertising Online advertising Advertising formats Banner ads Social network sites
In this day and age large sums of money are dedicated to commercial communication on a global level. This budget tends to be divided into conventional media and nonconventional media. Very recently, nonconventional media used in communication have assumed large importance as far as their share of business budgets are concerned. Among the most-used advertising media during the last few decades, the Internet is especially noteworthy. The analysis done by advertisers and marketers of the behavior and time dedicated by Internet users shines a light on the level of the Internet’s pervasiveness, as well as the number of hours, which are continually increasing, that are dedicated to surfing the web, to the detriment of time dedicated to other means of communication. The main contribution of this paper is to offer a description of the theoretical framework of the subject of online advertising effectiveness, looking at the various formats, although special emphasis is given to the banner ad format.
Additionally, special attention is paid to the specific case of social network sites (SNSs), examining the main aspects of advertising effectiveness in this setting that have been studied in academic literature. We ought to be conscious of the fact that, in terms of the time spent by individuals connected to the Internet, SNSs are the online platforms to which they dedicate the most time (Hughes et al. 2012; Raacke and Bonds-Raacke 2008). Therefore, SNSs have become important places of high strategic value for placing advertisements. One analysis of time dedicated to the main social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) shows elevated numbers of active-user traffic. When faced with this situation, the SNSs must consider how to monetize their mass of users (e.g., Facebook has over one billion users already), as the main revenue source of SNSs is the sale of their advertising space for publicity (Lipsman et al. 2012). This tendency is related to the exponential increase of online advertising investment that has occurred in recent years (Nielsen 2012).
Companies are aware of the importance of running campaigns on SNSs that prove relevant for the users. To this end, advertisers must concentrate on improving advertising efficacy. With this backdrop, in this review specific questions are posed in relation to this topic, such as: what is understood about advertising efficacy on SNSs? Is advertising on SNSs more effective than advertising in conventional media? What are the perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of the consumer towards SNS advertisements? Are they more favorable than in other advertising-saturated media? etc. Nevertheless, analysis of the literature indicates that many questions about advertising on SNSs remain unanswered. The popularity of social networks and their recognition as a potential medium of advertising have grown so quickly that research studies have not been able to keep up with the pace of the industry. With this work, we are also endeavoring to offer an integrated revision of the topic of advertising on SNSs.
The remainder of the article is as follows. First, a starting approach to the online advertising framework is made, introducing the entire spectrum of advertising formats used on the Internet, with specific descriptions of formats used by outstanding SNSs such as Facebook, among others. In Sect. 3, the main influencing factors of online advertising are introduced; a detailed analysis of the specific case of the banner ad format is performed due to its special relevancy. Next, the topic of advertising effectiveness in the specific context of SNSs is addressed. Finally, some theoretical and practical concluding remarks about online advertising effectiveness are discussed and interesting future lines of research are pointed out as well.
2 Literature Review on On-line Advertising
In order to establish a starting point for the study of efficacy of advertising Internet, and more specifically, on SNSs, an analysis of the main articles of advertising research has been performed. As a starting point, we examine the bibliometric study of advertising research on the Internet by Kim and McMillan (2008), as well as the revision done by Ha and McCann (2008). Then we expand said analysis, incorporating the new proposals that have emerged on the topic of studies of advertising messages published on the Internet. We pay special attention to the analysis of the research focused on the topic of advertising on SNSs.
As done by McMillan, we analyze the main works related to the study of Internet advertising. To this end, a selection of specialized journals has been chosen, highlighting four main magazines in the academic sphere related to advertising, marketing and the Internet. Said magazines are classified based on number of citations and impact factor, according to the Journal of Citations Report (JCR), from which Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Current Issues and Advertising Research and Journal of Interactive Advertising were selected. The authors, by means of a statistical analysis of the citations that appear throughout these publications, discovered that the main topics dealing with advertising on the internet can be broken down into six themes: (1) effectiveness of Internet advertising, (2) interactivity, (3) electronic commerce, (4) advertising processes, (5) attitude towards the site/ad/brand, and (6) comparisons to traditional media.
With the objective of updating the analysis performed by Kim and McMillan (2008), we do a revision of main contributions published on the subject of advertising research. We select, firstly, the most cited magazines in the area of marketing and advertising according to JCR (2011 edition), ranked by impact factor on its JCR’s subject. After the revision, articles were selected whose keywords included the terms advertising, Internet and social networks. Going forward from these works, a detailed classification of the apparent themes was elaborated and organized by year. The most relevant works are classified by themes based on their key words and content, which most notably include: advertising effectiveness, consumer behavior studies, effectiveness studies for different online advertising formats, Internet and SNS, and electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM). The analysis period spanned from 2003 to 2012.
Papers on internet advertising by themes for the time period 2003 to 2011
Research topics related with advertising effectiveness
Source (by chronological order)
Sponsorship and patronage on the internet
Analysis of synergies between media (TV and Web)
Chang and Thorson (2004)
Advertising evasion on the internet
Cho and Cheon (2004)
Virtual direct experience (VDE) with the advertised product
Griffith and Chen (2004)
Analysis of exposure frequency and experimentation between media
Havlena et al. (2007)
Banner design and its influence on Click through rate (CTR)
Robinson et al. (2007)
Strategies for banner repetition and its relation with brand memorability
Yaveroglu and Donthu (2008)
Inefficacy of the banner’s CTR
Fulgoni and Mörn (2009)
Internet campaigns: creativity, placement and budgetary strategies
Li et al. (2009)
Social media metrics
Analysis of brand exhibition between media
Combined efficacy between print media and the Internet
Wakolbinger et al. (2009)
Banner formats and positions within websites
Evaluation of the methods employed to measure advertising efficacy
Lavrakas et al. (2010)
Efficiency between media (advertising of the automobile market in Spain)
Pergelova et al. (2010)
Combined analysis of distinct advertising media’s (importance of social networks) ability to increase brand value
Pfeiffer and Zinnbauer (2010)
Advertising in videogames. The relationship between the advertised product or service and the videogame’s theme (congruency, integration and prominence)
Chang et al. (2010)
Evaluation of negative attitudes towards distracting advertisements
Duff and Faber (2011)
Prescription of and involvement with online videos (Youtube)
Hye-Jin et al. (2011)
Mitigating the effect of videogame advertising on children
Soontae and Stern (2011)
Evaluation of advertisement generated by the consumers (analysis, criticisms, etc.)
Steyn et al. (2011)
Research topics related with consumer’s attitudes and behaviors (antecedents and moderators)
Source (by chronological order)
Exposure level on response CTR banner
Chandon et al. (2003)
Study of memory and recognition of online advertising
Danaher and Mullarkey (2003)
Study of offensive advertising in Asia
Prendergast and Chia (2003)
Effect of advertising banners: congruency with the context and color on attention and attitude
Moore et al. (2005)
Study of the home page’s complexity on attention, attitudes and purchasing intention
Geissler et al. (2006)
Attitude towards advertising via SMS
Carroll et al. (2007)
Analysis of visual strategies of global brand in local markets
Study of the relationship between the advertisement and the measurable behavior of interest to the brand
Graham and Havlena (2007)
Integrated model for advertising clutter offline and online
Ha and McCann (2008)
E-WOM (word of mouth setting on the web)
Youn and Kim (2008)
Study of trust as an attitude moderator
Attitudes towards four other types of interactive advertisements (based in the Internet, email, cell phones and SMS/MMS)
Cheng et al. (2009)
E-WOM (word of mouth setting on the web)
Lee and Youn (2009)
Tactical use of mobile marketing. WOM vs. E-WOM
Acceptance of advertisement in social networks (on-line)
Fue Zeng et al. (2009)
Investigating online advertising through Chinese and American culture (OTOA)
Sun and Wang (2010)
Effects of self-endorsing versus other-endorsing in online advertisements on consumer’s brand attitude and purchase intention
Ahn and Bailenson (2011)
Interpersonal trust and credibility on social networks
Hung Li et al. (2011)
The effect of impersonal or personal channels on the consumer’s intention to adopt the Internet at home
Wei et al. (2011)
Publications about online advertising response models
Models for the evaluation and selection of advertising media
Evaluation of media through a network of information
Coulter and Sarkis (2005)
Analysis of the benefits of conventional media compared to new media advertising
Pfeiffer and Zinnbauer (2010)
Updating the ARF model for the selection of advertising media by advertising/media agencies
Romaniuk and Gugel (2010)
Models of efficacy in relation to disposition towards advertising
Effect of creativity on advertising efficacy
Cramphorn and Meyer (2009)
Focus on the the ad’s assertiveness. Study through distinct cultures
Terlutter et al. (2010)
Influence of the editorial likeability and the editorial effect on later evaluations of the ads
Internet and on-line formats
Focus on advertising evasion on the Internet
Cho and Cheon (2004)
Analysis of the pages’ hyperlinks ability to enhance the efficacy of an ad
Sohn and Jee (2005)
Focus on the intention to purchase and repurchase when a banner is viewed
Manchanda et al. (2006)
E-mail viral marketing as a form of electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM). Determinants of opening-forwarding e-mail messages
San José-Cabezudo and Camarero-Izquierdo (2012)
The factors affecting click-through keyword search ads
Online social environment
Influence of the users of a social network (analysis and modeled with time series data)
Trusov et al. (2010)
Evaluation of WOM and observational learning in online social interaction
Chen et al. (2011)
The diffusion process in a social network given the individual connections between members
Katona (Katona 2011)
Acceptance of advertising on social networks
Taylor and Lewin (2011)
How brands reach and influence fans through social-media marketing
Lipsman et al. (2012)
Measuring Facebook’s Impact on Marketing through the value of a fan
Social Web. Understanding user-generated content (USG) creators, and how their engagement with brand-related UGC affects their brand perceptions and hence their communications about that brand
Christodoulides et al. (2012)
The growth of social communication platforms on the Internet. Here, the analysis of eWOM (electronic Word of Mouth) on the Web is especially interesting (see the authors’ chapter on e-WOM in this handbook). A number of important studies evaluate eWOM produced in social networks (Amblee and Bui 2011; Chen et al. 2011; Chu and Kim 2011; Lee and Youn 2009; Okazaki 2009; Prendergast et al. 2010; Riegner 2007; Smith et al. 2007). Special attention is paid to UGC (User-Generated Content) related to brand equity (Christodoulides et al. 2012) and the earned media (Nelson-Field et al. 2012) on SNSs.
The ease with which messages are propagated in the network and their bond with buzz marketing and viral marketing. Specifically, it is proposed that the propagation of messages is related to users’ need to construct and express their identity (Taylor 2012).
The existence of a large line of studies focused on the different advertising formats employed on the Internet. From amongst these works, the most-studied format is the banner. The evaluation of measures of behavioral efficacy through CTR (click-through rate) stand out as noteworthy (Fourquet-Courbet et al. 2007; Moore et al. 2005; Robinson et al. 2007; Yaveroglu and Donthu 2008). Studies of the factors that affect the click-through keyword search ads are also important (Yun 2012).
Among the global SNSs, Facebook is the most dominant—and fastest growing—social medium, with more than 1 billion active users as of October 2012, of which over 600 million are active monthly mobile users. For marketers, Facebook’s platform offers a different kind of mechanism for communicating with their potential audiences, which gives it a very important role in companies’ IMC policies (LaPointe 2012; Lipsman et al. 2012; Nelson-Field et al. 2012).
The study of advertising efficacy through web-user behavior. Here, the focus of interest is on negative beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that might arise when receiving and processing online advertising (Cho and Cheon 2004; Taylor et al. 2011).
The study of the emotions caused by advertisements allows a more accurate prediction of its efficacy than evaluative measures of information processing such as persuasion, brand linkage, cut-through measures, and even message delivery (Wood 2012).
Of the actions that improve the efficacy of messages on the network, correctly predicting the criteria of segmentation to select our target objective proves crucial to increasing purchasing intent or product use in social networks (Tucker 2011; Yeo 2012).
Next, a description of the high-relevancy advertising formats on the Internet and SNSs is offered.
2.1 Advertising Formats on the Internet
In the beginning, Internet advertising employed simple formats that achieved a very strong response from users (Rae and Brennan 1998). As bandwidth connections have increased, the possibilities to create online ads have grown exponentially, since greater bandwidth allows the user to download a greater amount of information (Internet World Stats 2011). Furthermore, the technological development of programming languages and software has paved the way for a wide variety of Internet advertising formats. This has led to current campaigns being composed of audiovisual and multimedia material. Therefore, advertisers are faced with the decision of which format best fits their creative content and advertising strategy needs.
The most used advertising formats on the Internet
• Sponsored links
• Ad sense
• Expandable banner
• Leader board
• Medium banner
• Mega banner
• Full page-ads
• Sponsored sections
• Mobile Marketing
• Product or brand placement
Email Marketing–Direct Marketing
• In-Banner Video file-loaded
• In-banner video streaming
Among the integrated formats, the most important is undoubtedly the banner, which with more than eighteen years of use, continues to be one of the most commonly used advertising formats on the Internet. The first known banner on the Internet appeared on the site HotWired.com in 1994 (Cho and Leckenby 2003). Since then, it has become the most frequently used advertising format on the Internet and has also consistently sustained the interest of researchers. The banner is essentially a piece of advertising within a website, similar to what it has historically been in print media; i.e. with the support a website instead of a print newspaper, magazine or similar medium. Its primary objective is to attract traffic to the page of the advertiser, who pays for the ad’s inclusion on certain pages. Generally the banner ads are created with images (formats: GIF, JPEG or PNG) or with animation developed through technologies such as Java Adobe Shockwave and, most commonly, Flash. They are designed with the intention to grab attention, be flashy and communicate the desired message. Therefore, banners do not necessarily need to conform to the graphics of their containing website. This explains the designers’ effort to create more and more attractive banners by combining different designs with high quality images, in 3D and with movement.
Among the floating formats, the most studied are pop-ups and pop-unders. Pop-unders, in comparison with pop-ups, are less interruptive since they appear behind the main page that is being visited. But, for this same reason, they are not seen until the user closes they windows that they are using, making it more difficult for the navigator to determine which page activated the opening of the pop-under (Moe 2006). Sometimes emerging formats of pop-ups activate new windows, occasionally creating an infinite loop, which, intentional or no, is normally very upsetting (Edwards et al. 2002; Quinones et al. 2008). Due to this, techniques and programs that block the appearance of this type of emerging windows continually appear under the common names pop-up killers or pop-up blockers. In 2004, some of the most important websites (e.g., msn.com) began to limit the use of emerging windows, considering them overly intrusive for users.
Some of the other commonly used formats on the Internet fall into the category of transitional formats, in which the formats known as interstitials and supersticials are found. This type of ads bears great resemblance to television ads. The fundamental difference is that interstitials appear between two pages of content. They are therefore referred to as transitional advertisements; in other words, the user sees the ad while they navigate between page “a” and page “b.” Superstitials correspond to an interactive advertising format similar to a television spot, developed for sending a message from a single sender to a single receiver. Next, the formats employed by the main SNSs are highlighted due to the businesses’ increasing investment in these new media.
2.2 Advertising Formats on SNSs
SNSs provide advertisers with a large amount of information from their millions of users (Hughes et al. 2012). When the quantity of users and the time dedicated to participation is high, SNS spaces begin to be attractive to companies, as they are able to use them to introduce their products or services through advertisement.
Text, video, audio and other multimedia-based content on the web (rich media) can be included in SNSs’ structure. The aim of businesses is to increase the number of followers a brand has, promote a network, share a promotion, generate notoriety, introduce a new product, etc. This makes SNSs especially interesting to advertisers, since they are in possession of larger space and greater flexibility than conventional advertising media, expressed in terms of interactivity, personalization and feedback (Benevenuto et al. 2009). In traditional channels, users maintain a reactive attitude, meaning they are passive and open to suggestions; this includes advertising. In contrast, in social media users participate with a proactive attitude, providing content, photographs, opinions, and proposals. Because of these unique characteristics of social media and its users, conventional advertising actions normally obtain inferior results when compared to those that are launched on SNSs. Advertising becomes a fundamental axis on which the main SNSs base their strategies for monetizing their activity; they possess space, audience and information about their users, through which communication campaigns can articulate effectively and, most importantly, efficiently.
Social network sites ad formats
Social network site
Loading page + reminder = Welcome page
Home ad unit
Photo ad unit
Facebook, considered to be the world’s main social network (Darvell et al. 2011; Lipsman et al. 2012), presents the following advertising formats as part of its fundraising strategy: sponsored pages, sponsored ads, sponsored stories and the use of complementary material that can be incorporated into any web page and that can bring content and social features to any network. Amongst these, we find examples of “Premium” advertising such as: like ad, poll ad, event ad and comment ad. The advertising formats used by Facebook are fundamentally based in the use of promoted links with text and images, which can be located anywhere on the pages seen by the user, even the profile page. Advertisers are able to promote their own network and obtain registers/records of users through a landing page. Furthermore, these advertising formats allow detailed segmentation by sex, age, geographic location, job type, company, even by the users’ behavior in the social network.
Twitter, the number-one microblogging social network in the world, has also developed unique advertising formats. It makes use of promoted tweets, which are comprised of advertising messages in the format of “tweets” (short messages of 140 or fewer characters) that appear in the search results for certain key words. These messages are labeled “promoted” to indicate that they are advertisements, although the properties of a classic “tweet” such as the ability to retweet (i.e., a message that is duplicated or mentioned by another user) are preserved. Another of the unique formats employed by Twitter is known as “promoted trends,” promoted topics that subscribers use to spread information of interest, daily, weekly or monthly. In this case, what is spread as a trend would be an advertising message pre-established by Twitter as a trend; when users search for current trends, they find the promoted trend displayed among the search results. However, Twitter does not accept all types of content to be promoted; they solely permit those tweets that, at the time, are already enjoying certain popularity on the network. The most recent advertising innovation that has been incorporated into the network is known as promoted account and consists of recommending an account or profile in the “who to follow” section. These accounts must have a relationship with someone whom the user already follows. In this way, the odds that a user of a social network will follow a promoted account are increased. This allows advertisers to become familiar with the information shared on the social network that, from a communications standpoint, could prove interesting/useful. For example, a business like Coca-Cola would have a vested interest in its profile being visible in the zones of social networks that are dedicated to suggesting who to follow.
The most important Spanish social network, Tuenti, is noteworthy for making a special effort towards employing intense and extensive advertising, but always based on the likes and behaviors of the consumer. To achieve this, Tuenti uses a series of formats, based in hyper segmentation (i.e., who, how, when and where the advertising message is being received), with good coverage of the age segment of interest to the advertisers (18–35 year) (Tuenti 2012). Permanent brand or product pages serve as a meeting point for brands and users with intentions of maintaining a long-term relationship with each other. The pages, in turn, can contain advertising formats. Applications (apps), are the result of integrating a premium brand or product page into an application or small web program through an iframe; they prove to be especially convenient to use on the screens of mobile terminals, since they display such a small amount of the information contained in the premium pages. Sponsored events, which are designed to facilitate the execution of seasonal campaigns, include social features, photos, videos, surveys, comments, etc. Their basic function is to generate traffic and publicity for an event with an end-date determined by the user.
Within the portfolio of advertising formats used by the social network Tuenti, one can find formats with a social character, which are the result of communications with the users, as well as other permanent and temporary formats. The main social formats employed by Tuenti are the loading page (initial loading page) and a reminder format. The loading page tends to correspond to a format found in the login during the first 5 s of loading a page and can personalize the message for each user. Next, a reminder tends to appear that redirects the user to a specific event when the loading page disappears (after 5 s); this allows access to the microsite of the associated event or to the advertiser’s website.
Additionally, there are formats classified by Tuenti as B2B (business to business), where the home ad units are. It is a space located on the profile or homepage of every user that usually includes information about sponsored events, pages and videos. Its defining characteristic is how it adapts to distinct navigation settings. In other words, it can reposition itself in order to display all of its important advertising information to the user. It is usually composed of a logo of a specific size with a title, plus an attached descriptive text. The advertisement located in the home ad units rotates like a carousel, depending on the user’s segmentation characteristics.
In turn, there is a photo ad unit, similar to the previous but exclusively found when the user is looking at photographs. This normally includes a floating format in the right margin that follows the scroll of the browser. Both formats—i.e., home ad unit and photo ad unit—serve as a conventional-pricing model based on cost-per-thousand (CPM) and both are composed of a title, description, avatar and URL that redirects the internet-user to the advertiser’s page. Within the same category of B2B, Tuenti incorporates what is known as coupons. The coupons are housed in sections of the sites specifically dedicated to suggesting places such as bars, pubs or restaurants. The process consists of sending the local business’s offer by text message to the telephone of the user for free, from which the user downloads a single coupon.
Tuenti has also developed another category of advertising formats, fundamentally based on access via mobile devices, predominantly smartphones. Its goal is to take advantage of the increasing rate of users accessing social networks through mobile devices. This knowledge about the users’ behavior has prompted Tuenti to search for an opening for advertisements specifically designed for mobile access. To find advertising solutions, we can turn to the mobile version of Tuenti (http://m.tuenti.com), where users can access a version that features adjusted size and content but that retains the majority of its social functions. The mobile version of Tuenti uses standard advertising formats segmented by mobile terminal, gender, operator and page within the website. Said mobile version is especially optimized for the main mobile terminals on the market. In this version that is accessible by mobile devices, the fundamental method of commercialization is ad display-types such as banners, respecting MMA’s (Mobile Marketing Association) standards of presentation: a four-second animated GIF image.
There are also links embedded in the text, causing the advertiser’s page to obtain follows through users clicking on these links. These links remain fixed on the home page of the user until the they interact with them (Tuenti, calculates that with this form they can reach up to one million users in 10 days).
Auto-play consists of showing the user a spot during the first 10 s of starting a new session, making Tuenti into the host of video-associated content. Moreover, this allows for the possibility of advanced segmentation, advanced control of what is being looked at and the possibility to click on external links.
Click2play consists of a video, which the user can choose to enter or close, appearing when the user begins browsing.
Pre-roll tends to be a video format usually associated with content of professional origin (it could be also a game) where the user initiates its visualization, after viewing an advertisement.
Sponsorship, an exclusive product of social character that introduces a brand’s logo at the bottom of the social network’s landing page. When the mouse is placed over the logo of the brand that sponsors Tuenti, a rollover format message appears with the advertiser’s message and a hyperlink to the company’s Tuenti page (their page within the Tuenti network).
Games, a feature that represents a wide set of advertising solutions focused on mini games within the social network. We can distinguish between the development of an exclusive game for a brand or product, the use of sponsorship by a brand or product, personalization of the game and even the placement of the brand in the game or its surroundings (in-game advertisement).
The use of a login page or exclusive access page, a technique that consists of providing the advertiser with the possibility of personalizing the homepage of all of Tuenti’s users. This is a format destined to be hugely important for advertisers on certain extremely social occasions (Christmas campaigns, father’s day, Valentine’s day, etc.).
Finally, among its array of advertising products, Tuenti uses what is known as Racing Team, based on a line of products associated with the team that sponsors the motorcycling world championships.
Next, we delve deeper into the efficacy of online advertising, emphasizing the case of banner format due to its being the most commonly employed advertisement strategy on the Web.
3 Influencing Factors in the Effectiveness of Online Advertising: The Case of Banner Ad
3.1 Overall View
The study of advertising effectiveness is based on the investors/advertisers’ need to know if their marketing campaigns successfully contribute to reaching their proposed commercial goals. Authors such as Wells (1997) consider advertising efficacy to be tied to the tangible and quantifiable effects on brands or businesses, ensuring positive returns on advertising investment.
Numerous variables over which advertisers have little control influence the measurement of online advertising efficacy, such as: interactivity (Voorveld 2011), medium saturation (Ha and McCann 2008), experience (Edwards et al. 2002), synergy between media (Chang and Thorson 2004), perceived intrusion of different advertising formats (Li et al. 2002), etc., all of which have the power to alter the evaluation of advertising efficacy. Next, we comment on some of these variables in detail.
Interactivity is considered one of the main differences between advertising on conventional media and advertising on the Internet. It allows reciprocal communication between users and companies or between users and users (Liu 2001). Interactivity underscores the users’ control, alluding to the voluntary and instrumental actions that directly influence their experiences of the advertisement (Liu and Shrum 2002). Liu and Shrum (2002) describe it as a degree through which the users enter into the communication and simultaneously receive their response. Wu (2005; p. 30) defines interactivity as a “psychological state experienced by a site-visitor during the interaction process.” According to Wu (2005), interactivity is characterized by: (1) perceived control in relation to browsing, content and place of interaction; (2) perception of the response, i.e. how the web responds to the information entered by the user; and (3) perception of personalization, or the degree to which the consumer perceives the response to be appropriate or personally relevant to the communication. Some studies indicate that the impossibility of being able to send emails from a website and the obligation to register in order to consult some parts of the page negatively affect the perception of interactivity (Voorveld 2011).
Nevertheless, having interactive properties does not guarantee that consumers will perceive the website as more interactive. One of the reasons for this is that what is perceived as favoring interactivity today might not be perceived so tomorrow (Voorveld 2011). Users are used to certain interactivity options on the Internet that they might now take for granted; e.g. hyperlinks in text are part of the function of interactivity but are not as widespread as users currently perceive them to be (Yoo 2008).
Another factor worth highlighting is known as previous experiences, a phenomenon that predisposes individuals to react to new situations in the same way that they have acted to previous, similar situations. This parallelism is established in learning based upon consumers’ previous experiences (Hoch and Deighton 1989) Hence, it can be expected that those consumers who have been bothered by online advertising in the past (e.g., hindering of reading, slowed browsing, difficulty in understanding searches, etc.), will be conditioned to close the advertisement without having processed it (Edwards et al. 2002).
With respect to inter-media synergy, we can say that an advertising campaign is much more effective if it is launched on simultaneously on both television and the Internet than if it is solely spread via television, even if it is broadcast more frequently. With respect to this, Chang and Thorson (2004) indicate that synergy between media such as television and the Internet does a better job of capturing consumers’ attention. Thus, the user perceives the advertising message as more trustworthy and will develop a greater number of positive thoughts about the brand, product and the intention to purchase. To obtain these synergies, a total cooperation between those responsible for each message in each media is necessary (Kanso and Nelson 2004).
The perceived intrusiveness of an advertising message is created by the user’s perception that the ad is intruding into a place where it doesn’t belong, which provokes irritation in the user seeing the ad (Edwards et al. 2002; Li et al. 2002). Once the user becomes aware of this, he or she tries to regain control over the ad which is perceived as both intrusive and unauthorized, with more or less intensity depending on their level of psychological reactance (Brehm and Brehm 1981). According to psychology studies applied to advertising, users try to avoid online advertising in the following scenarios: (1) when the ad impedes them from accomplishing their immediate goals.; (2) when the quantity of ads is considered excessive (saturation); (3) when previous experiences have been negative, which would induce an aversion to online advertising (cho and Cheon 2004); or 4) when the ads interrupt the search process or the completion of a job, causing the user to view the ad negatively (Krugman 1983).
In the upcoming section, due to its importance, we focus on the efficacy of the ad banner format, possibly the most used and studied format.
3.2 Effectiveness of Banner Ads
First, we present the main results achieved in the study of the banner format, whose efficacy and effects have been thoroughly analyzed. In order to introduce the main conclusions drawn about its relevancy as a form of online advertising, it is necessary to differentiate between the criteria used to assess its effectiveness. Next, these criteria are looked at on an individual basis.
The modification of the banner’s physical characteristics such as changes in color (Moore et al. 2005), size and shape (Cho 2003a; Dos Santos 2007; Hussain et al. 2010; Lohtia et al. 2003), animation level (Burke et al. 2005; Chan, Kim and Stout 2005; Rae and Brennan 1998; Yoo and Kim 2005), and lack of animation (Hong et al. 2007).
Studies that have evaluated the content of the banner: type of text (Gong and Maddox 2003; Hervet et al. 2011), incorporated graphic images (Lees and Healy 2005) and different versions of banners’ creativity (Blazquez et al. 2008; Brown 2002).
Relationship between the banner and the website: page position (Benway 1998, 1999; Burke et al. 2005; Calisir and Karaali 2008; Ryu et al. 2007), coherence between content and website (Brigham 2011; Cheng and Kao 2011; Kivetz 2005; Kim and Choi 2010; Moore et al. 2005; Zanjani et al. 2011), attitude towards the website, source credibility (Choi and Rifon 2002; Kim and Choi 2010), and the banner’s level of exposure (Cho et al. 2001).
Research that evaluates the efficacy of banner ads in relation to the characteristics of the users to whom the ad is directed and in which one can manipulate variables such as experience level (brajnik and Gabrielli 2010; Hong et al. 2007), type of browsing done (Danaher and Mullarkey 2003; Hong et al. 2007; Pagendarm and Schaumburg 2001; Yang 2006), familiarity with advertised brand (Cho 2003b; Jessen and Rodway 2010; Sun and Wang 2010), level of involvement with the product (Cauberghe and De Pelsmacker 2008; Cho and Leckenby 2003; Dahlén et al. 2000), task at hand (Voorveld 2011; Hong et al. 2007; Quinones et al. 2008), user’s culture (Möller and Eisend 2010), and time exposed to the banner (Danaher and Mullarkey 2003).
In the studies evaluating the advertising efficacy of banner ads, distinct measurement techniques have been used, depending on whether they focused on the consumer’s cognitive, affective or behavioral dimensions. In relation to the cognitive dimension, memory (spontaneous or suggested), recognition and awareness are noteworthy. For the affective dimension, variables such as attitude towards the banner, towards the website or towards the advertised products, among others, have been used as tools to measure advertising efficacy (Chatterjee 2008; Li and Bukovac 1999; Moore et al. 2005; Yoo and Kim 2005). Most of the literature has used CTR to measure the efficacy of behavioral dimension. It is understood that the higher the CTR ratio, the greater the efficacy will be in terms of attention generated. This will imply a greater possibility of the message being processed, which, in turn, will have an effect on memories (Cho 1999), attitudes and on the consumers’ behavior (Chatterjee 2008). Therefore, each of the modifiable circumstances and characteristics of banners has been evaluated through the cognitive, affective and behavioral dimensions.
One of the first studies conducted by Briggs and Hollis (1997) indicates that banner ads function independently of whether or not the user clicks on the advertisement, if one considers that the click on the ad is a response born of the user’s predisposition towards advertising in general and not dependent on the characteristics of the particular advertisement. These authors promote the idea that the efficacy of Internet advertising formats might overtake the efficacy of advertising in other media like television or magazines. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that these affirmations were made at a time when the Internet did not possess its current pervasiveness, as the users’ experience and advertising saturation were still moderate at that point.
Next, we point out the main findings revealed by the literature on this topic (see also a summary in Appendix).
3.2.1 Physical Characteristics of Banners
Moore et al. (2005) evaluated memory and recognition in relation to the banner’s color, font and the background of the website. Colors were analyzed in terms of coherency with the website. Researchers evaluated the level at which the banner’s color was suitable for or related to the website where it was located, making two considerations: a banner will be incongruent or incoherent with respect to the website if the colors employed in the creative design are not in accordance with the rest of the website’s colors. On the contrary, a banner will be coherent if it respects the colors of the website in which it appears. Specifically, blue versus red tones were tested and showed limited importance on the experiment’s design. They concluded that the relationship between a website’s background color and the banner color could affect recognition of the website. When the individual perceives a lack of coherence or congruence between the page and the banner, the attitude towards the website is influenced. Specifically, the perception of incoherence between the banner and website favorably affects the user’s memory and recognition, while coherence favorably affects attitudes. These conclusions are reasonable because the incongruence of the banner grabs the attention of the user, increasing the probability of processing the message. Thus, banners can be more or less memorable or recognizable depending on the host website’s level of coherency.
In terms of font color, more attention is paid to the advertisements in situations of high contrast between the background and font (e.g., red background with white letters), while advertisements with less contrast (e.g., red background with black letters or blue background with white letters) did not show differences in levels of attention attracted (Moore et al. 2005).
Size and Shape
Baltas (2003) performed an evaluation to see which characteristics an online ad should have to capture users’ attention. He found that the bigger the ad size, the better the impression made on the consumer. In this vein, horizontal banners work better than skyscrapers (vertical banners); users prefer banners with short, clear messages over long messages; encrypted promotions and messages have no impact on visitors; and long download times have a negative influence, causing users to change websites and preventing them from seeing both the ad and its containing website. Based on these findings, Baltras (2003) advises advertisers to improve advertising efficacy on the Web and to produce more creative ads that are more useful to potential consumers. Likewise, it is suggested that the banner’s shape is much less relevant than its content (Dreze and Hussherr 2003).
The size of the banner could influence how it the banner perceived and, therefore, how effective it is. Dos Santos (2007) evaluated the influence of banner size in relation to episodic memory. It was observed that users show certain cognitive regularity in their processing of different sized banners; there was no statistical evidence to indicate that larger banners are more remembered than smaller banners. The size of the ad does not matter as much as the content (see: Dreze and Hussherr 2003; Lapa 2007).
Some authors claim that a banner with movement or animation is more effective than a static banner. An animated banner elicits more excitement from the user, which entails a greater level of attention towards the message (Sundar and Kalyanaraman 2004). In turn, more attention will drive click numbers, increasing the chances of have having a better memory of the message (Li and Bukovac 1999).
Nevertheless, the fact that a banner generates a lot of attention does not necessarily imply positive attitudes towards the ad. Diverse studies have demonstrated that an animated banner can cause negative effects on the users. When users believe that the animated banner is irrelevant to the task at hand, they show a tendency to ignore it (Burke et al. 2005). Yoo and Kim (2005) concluded that animated banners provoke negative cognitive and emotional effects in the users. Under certain circumstances, users perceive animated banners as unfair and coercive, which leads to them reacting to regain control as they experience a loss of freedom while the banner is exposed. This situation could cause skepticism and mistrust in the consumer, negatively influencing their attitudes towards the site, and their intentions of revisiting the site. However, there are two variables that can moderate the negative results: loyalty towards the website and the need of knowledge shown by the user (see: Thota et al. 2010).
In the same vein, Kuisma et al. (2010) researched the effects a banner’s animation has on attention and memory, using diverse methods including cognitive measurements like eye-tracking as well as recognition tests. The results showed that animation did not have a substantial effect on attention, given that the skyscraper banner format increased attention while “conventional” banners decreased it. The most effective condition for drawing attention towards advertising stimuli was the presence of an animated skyscraper and a static banner, although animation did not have a decisive effect on recognition.
In summation, various conclusions about banner animation are drawn. Now we will comment on them in a concise manner. Reducing banner blindness (Bayless 2000), does not produce effects on ad recognition (Bayles 2002), nor does it produce effects on memory (Dreze and Hussherr 2003). Increases in memory and recognition are moderated by involvement (Yoo et al. 2004). Animation speed matters; faster animation increases the attention paid to the format (Sundar and Kalyanaraman 2004). Animation improves attitude towards the ad but worsens attitude towards to the product (Sundar and Kim 2005), delays visual exploration (which reduces memory) (Burke et al. 2004, 2005), increases click behavior, lengthens browsing time, reduces focus, prevents examination of many elements and affects searches (Hong et al. 2007).
With respect to the static banner ad, many determined efforts have emerged in an effort to assess its efficacy. Hong et al. (2007) suggest that the differential, lower effects of ads without animation on users’ navigational behavior, compared to ads with animation, could be moderated by several variables. To determine this, they evaluated the type of task being done by the Internet user as well as their experience with the website. They observed that the lack of animation in a banner attracted users’ attention, while the existence of animation produced a greater likelihood of click and purchase when the users’ browsing process is goal-directed. But with animation, the users’ perception of efficiency diminishes, negatively affecting the individual’s perception of animation. Therefore, the negative effects of animation are more exaggerated when the user is engaging in exploratory browsing. Furthermore, they found that the effect of the users’ experience with animated banner ads could reduce distraction levels towards their navigational task objective.
Brown (2002) attempted to evaluate superiority regarding the efficacy of the pull-down banner. They concluded that this extra functionality of the banner provided a greater level of interactivity in comparison with a conventional banner, increasing attention, persuasion, pleasure and number of clicks. Repetition of the banner amplifies memory and recognition, increases fluency, and improves affection, cognition and recognition (see Yaveroglu and Donthu 2008).
The classic literature affirms that advertisements in the periphery of a website play a different role than those in the main areas. Peripheral advertising is less relevant to the user, which, due to an individual’s evasion mechanisms, increases the odds of the message not being processed (Benway 1999). Again, Day et al. (2006) evaluated periphery-type banner ads in the light of multi-attribute decision making (decisions in which the consumer has to choose a brand from a series of options); it was confirmed that banners located in the periphery of a website accelerated the decision making process. These findings suggest banners located in the periphery of a website do not distract users but rather elevate their arousal level, which in turn increases their decision making speed when presented with a multi-attribute choice. This conclusion is supported by Dos Santos (2007), who says that banners located in the lower zone of a website are remembered more easily and to a greater extent than those located in the upper part of the page. Therefore, it seems that the position of a banner prevails as more important than its size.
Page Structure of a Website (Depth of Navigation)
In relation to a banner’s containing website, Hsieh and Chen (2011) analyzed the influence of the website’s structure on the advertisement, and not only evaluating controllable format variables (e.g., shape, color size and location), as had been done up until this point in the studies evaluating banner efficacy. To accomplish this, the study was based on the premise that attention can fluctuate to the extent that the receiver of the banner moves through distinct, sequential pages of a website. They explored the concepts attentioninertia and habituation. The latter happens when an individual gets used to a stimulus and pays increasingly less attention to it. This phenomenon occurs automatically and does not involve conscious effort. Nevertheless, any aspect of the stimulus that is different or novel (not familiar) can decrease the likelihood of familiarization (Sternberg and Mio 2008, p. 137).
Attention inertia is a phenomenon produced when a person focuses their attention on an object, though the strength of the attention diminishes the longer the object or stimulus remains (Burns and Anderson 1993). These authors theorized that in a mental process, the inertia of attention is fortified with the passing of time. Thus, an individual can at first be attracted by a “distractor” element. However, when the mental process functions during a sufficient period of time, it grows more and more active and becomes less susceptible to interruptions by distractor elements. The role of “distractor” would be assumed by the advertisement that appears repeatedly on each page, where the receptor is focusing, little by little, their attention towards the main content in step with the passing of time and becoming increasingly resistant to interruption on the part of the advertisement. Based on these premises, Hsieh and Chen (2011) found that users pay more attention to banners located in the first pages they see, regardless of the task at hand. This is especially likely in pages that specialize in images or video. Thus, in a sequential navigating experience, attention towards a banner reduces rapidly as the user delves deeper into distinct pages of the site.
Websites specializing in videos and images present a better exploitation of attention compared to ads in text and ads based in images and text;
Websites specializing in video are the best at drawing the users’ attention towards the ad;
The main page or landing page of a website is always the best opportunity to draw attention to the ad. However, the first pages based in text or in a text-image combination are worse at attracting attention than later pages based exclusively in images or video;
Navigating the content of different pages with distinct types of information affects the attention and intensity directed towards the ad. Moreover, the main page is the most sensitive to the effect of advertising content located within it, which distinguishes it from any of the other pages of the website.
3.2.2 Banner Content
Diverse aspects related to the content of banners have been studied. For example, the possibility of an increase in the CTR ratio in the presence of certain graphic elements such as a mouse cursor in the shape of a pointer has been studied. Lees and Healy (2005) concluded that the inclusion of visual elements, like the pointer, do not improve CTR ratios.
With respect to the research analyzing the creativity of banner characteristics in relation to efficacy, Robinson et al. (2007) show that the banner’s creativity proves to have greater efficacy in terms of increases in CTR when the creativity is paired with larger banners, with long messages and an absence of promotional incentives.
When it comes to the analysis of the source, credibility can affect the efficacy of advertising on the Web. Choi and Rifon (2002) analyzed the antecedents and consequences of online advertising credibility; they also examined the effects of the website’s credibility, the ad’s relevance (the relevance of the advertised product in relation to the content of the website), and how the credibility of the advertiser affected the credibility of the ad, the attitudes towards the brand and the intentions to purchase the product. The results suggest that the source’s credibility is vital to understand the efficacy of online advertising, as it can moderate everything mentioned in the previous list. Thus, when the source’s credibility is high, the relevance of the ad for the users will be positive, as well as their attitudes towards the brand and towards the intent to purchase.
In another study of effects of the online advertiser’s credibility and their corporate reputation on the banners efficacy, Kim and Choi (2010) investigated how coherency and moderation of the advertised product along with the website’s content affect the source’s credibility. The results show that, while the business’ credibility made a significant impact on the consumers’ responses, the ad’s perceived credibility, the attitude towards the ad, the attitude towards the brand, the intention to purchase and the website’s reputation did not command an important influence over the source’s credibility. The findings suggest an important moderating role on the part of the coherency between the product and the website, which in turn affects the advertised company’s credibility. Thus, when a highly credible business advertises their products in a manner coherent with the website that contains the banner, the ad’s persuasion will be more effective; in contrast, companies with low levels of credibility do not benefit from congruency.
Exposure Type (Forced vs. voluntary)
The way in which the receiver is exposed to the message will influence their perception of the message. When the exposure to the information is involuntary, it is automatically and unconsciously set aside to be accessed later at an appropriate time (Cho 1999). On the Internet, thanks to the interactivity of the medium, exposure to advertising messages can occur voluntarily or involuntarily. The banner format begins as involuntary exposure. Nevertheless, when the user clicks on the ad, they are voluntarily exposing themselves to the information contained within. On the basis of this explanation, voluntary exposure will achieve better results and a greater degree of attention will be paid to the message, activating the cognitive learning process more intensely than via involuntary exposure. Internet consumers must perform an extra voluntary action in order to activate cognitive and conscious processing. Therefore, when a user clicks on the banner it is precursor to beginning to actively process the information. As a consequence, better results will be achieved in terms of remembering the information (Cho 1999).
Cho et al. (2001) performed one of the most noteworthy investigations by evaluating differing levels of forced exposure to banner ads. The main results showed that in the case of forced exposure, the user has a higher cognizance of the ad’s existence, and, at the same time, the ratio of click-through is increased. The most surprising finding is that lots of forced exposure generates a more favorable attitude on the part of the user towards both the ad and the brand, furthermore augmenting the users’ intent to purchase. In turn, banners presented in a forced manner lead to positive advertising results, such as a better attitude towards the ad, towards the brand and towards purchasing intention. One of the explanations that the authors have put forth for this finding (contrary to the original proposal in their hypothesis) resides in the increase of the users’ attention in the setting of forced exposure, a deeper attention than in “normal” exposure conditions.
Fang, Singh and Ahluwalia (2007) studied attitudes towards the ad in relation to degree of exposure. They found that among the negative feelings awoken by the level of forced exposure, there were significant feelings of annoyance induced, equally from cognitive evasion as well as from physical evasion, while irritation induced cognitive evasion. They also pointed out that the degree of evasion negatively affects the user’s attitude towards the ad.
Online navigation seems to usually be directed searching towards a specific goal (Eighmey and McCord 1998). This normally leads to users being focused on their primary objectives, meaning on what prompted them to use the Internet at that given moment (e.g., searching for information, seeing a video, zoning out (janiszewski 1998). Regarding the type of navigation being done by users, Danaher and Mullarkey (2003) created a website experiment through two types of navigation: goal-directed and free. They found that the longer a user is exposed to a certain website, the better their memory and recognition will be of the ads found on said page; those levels of memory and recognition were even higher among users whose navigation was non-purpose-driven.
Calisir and Karaali (2008) performed a study focused on the examination of the factors that influence the recognition of a banner. To do this, they evaluated its location, its content and the users’ navigation type. They found that the recognition of the format is influenced by the interaction of the banner with the website’s content as well as the user’s style of navigation. Specifically, participants whose navigation is not directed towards any specific goal are significantly more likely to recognize an ad banner that includes a URL address than the experimental subjects to whom little information is offered about the service plus the URL address. However, among participants with a goal-oriented navigation style, there are no significant differences shown towards the content of the two types of banner. The results also indicate that goal-oriented participants better recognize the ad than those with a free or exploratory navigation style only in the cases where the banner includes some information about the advertised service and its URL address.
3.2.3 Users’ Characteristics
With respect to the individual characteristics that can influence the perception of the banner’s efficacy, the variable involvement with the product stands out. Thus, users highly involved with a specific product are more likely to click on a banner that contains information about said product. On the contrary, in situations with a low level of involvement, there is a smaller chance that a user will voluntarily view a message by clicking on a banner. Nonetheless, when the banner is animated, it is more likely that a user with a low degree of involvement with the product click on the ad. Therefore, in situations of high involvement with the product, banner animation does not influence the CTR (Cho and Leckenby 2003). The attitude towards the advertisement can affect the efficacy of the format, since those individuals who have a favorable attitude towards online advertising are more likely to click on a banner.
Another of the important user characteristics variable is their degree of experience with the Internet. Based on the idea that ease of use and usefulness influence and explain current and future behaviors of an individual towards electronic commerce (Chen and Tan 2004; Davis 1989), it is to be expected that a user’s experience with a medium will influence their perceptions of usefulness and ease of use. Therefore, it will also influence the consumers’ behavior towards online advertising. On the other hand, the Internet requires more cognitive resources that other written media (Cho 1999; Yu and Roh 2002), making it easier to overload users with little experience. Moreover, the more active and intense processing of information that is done on the Internet demands a higher level of interaction between the consumer and the message, as well as a greater cognitive effect, since use of the Internet entails deliberate actions to process information (Cho 1999). Therefore, it is to be expected that the Web user’s experience will moderate the effect of the banner format on the communication process. The experience, consequently, will make users pay attention to ads at the beginning; once familiar with the design of the website, their attention will continually diminish as they stay on the site (Lapa 2007); also, the users’ experience with animated banners will reduce the effect of animation on attention paid to the banner.
Additionally, the advertising message’s relevance to the individual increases the intention of clicking on the banner (Cho 1999); this relationship is more intense among users that have a positive attitude towards the website. Relevant advertising will lead to a more positive attitude towards the ad; in this situation, users will be more likely to follow what is known as the central processing route to high involvement, as postulated by the ELM (Elaboration Likelihood Model) model Cacioppo et al. 1986). Furthermore, this will not affect the time spent on the results obtained on the website if the message is relevant for the individual (Lapa 2007).
Dahlen (2001) evaluated the impact of familiarity with the advertised brand on the efficacy of the banner, distinguishing between expert users and novices. From his study, it can be deduced that brands familiar to the user prior to exposure to the banner receive, on average, a greater number of clicks than advertised brands that are previously unfamiliar. For known brands, the number of clicks decreases with repeated exposure to the banner. For unknown brands, the number of clicks increases with repeated exposure. Inexperienced users click on the banner more often than experienced users. Less experienced users show larger changes in their knowledge and attitude towards a brand through the effects of a banner than those with more experience. This analysis could be of great importance to advertisers: unknown brands should embark mainly on long-term campaigns, since that would allow a greater number of exposures to the ad; in contrast, known brands should focus on short-term campaigns, since ads lose their attraction quickly with the passing of time.
Within the research of the efficacy of banners as an advertising format, there is also a certain interest in discovering if there is a difference in the evaluation of its efficacy in terms of the culture of the message receiver. Thus, Möller and Eisend (2010) have revealed that advertising banners’ efficacy, in terms of response capacity on the part of the consumers, is determined by cultural variables. From the four cultural dimensions analyzed in their study, individualism has the strongest effect on the attitudes towards the advertising banner. Consumers that come from individualistic cultures are less appreciative of and less likely to click on advertising banners than those from collectivist societies.
Finally, the user’s gender can explain differing manners of behavior on the Internet. Men more often use the left hemisphere of the brain, which leads them to establishing global rules and categorical concepts of information during processing; women tend to process information with the right hemisphere, which leads them to think more about specificities and intrinsic values implied in the stimulus or information. Consequently, men seem to favor a holistic and undifferentiated processing, while women process in a more detailed and elaborate manner (Meyers-Levy and Malaviaya 1999).
4 Effectiveness of Advertising in Social Networks
As mentioned earlier, businesses use social networks to promote their products, improve communication with customers, and gain knowledge about the market. According to what has been observed,1 from the use of SNSs as an advertising medium, the following noteworthy phenomena occur: (1) an action-focused communication strategy unique to the business, which materializes in the exhibition of products or services and the creation of events and activities; and (2) a communication distribution strategy, which provides and spreads content that is relevant for Web users, but that is not exclusively produced by the company. The latter is more interesting to users that consult businesses’ profiles on social networks because the business makes content available that is not exclusively related to its own products or events, but is about news related to the sector or information relevant to the consumer.
Therefore, businesses, regardless of the strategy they decide to follow, must always concern themselves with spreading attractive and “impactful” content to the consumer. To do this, they make use of audiovisual content, promotions, discounts, updates, gifts, contests, etc. These tactics must be adapted to the unique possibilities offered by each of the social networks to allow businesses to project themselves publicly. Regardless of the business’s intended use of the social network, the true asset of these media lies in the number of users interacting with them. Precisely for the scope of their social reach, social networks are increasingly catching the attention of researchers in online advertising.
Likewise, the rapid growth of SNSs fuels advertisers’ search for new advertisement options (Hart 2007). This flowering industry finds itself in a difficult position, as it has to find a balance between its need to generate profits through publicity and the users’ need to have uninterrupted experiences (Nutley 2007). However, there are still few studies that deal with the unique characteristics of advertising on social networks. Specifically, advertisements on social networks possess certain features that differ from other media due to the responses that are not considered strictly as personal actions, but rather as actions shaped by the characteristics of the community (Zeng et al. 2009). In this sense, there are several factors that influence the response to the advertisement. For example, the influence the social and group norms have on the attitudes of its members and, therefore, on how the individuals of the group express themselves. The identity of members in relation to the group and its social norms will moderate the intention to accept advertising within the group. Thus, in groups where the members have a strong sense of identity, social norms will have a positive effect on the users’ intentions. The greater the sense of self held by the group members of an online community, the more likely the group will be to form an opinion about the advertisement (Zeng et al. 2009). Therefore, if businesses want to receive positive responses to their advertisements within SNSs, they must consider two factors that are key to the responses and behavior of the individuals: the ad’s relevance and value within the community. Specifically, when users perceive the advertising message as relevant to the theme of the community as well as aligned with the representation of their social identities, the ad’s presence will be seen as positive. This will garner more positive results (Zeng et al. 2009).
In line with earlier considerations, studies like Nielsen’s (2010) have examined the value of advertising in communities on SNSs. To do this, an important distinction between formats was made in order to look at ads that were intended for the social network Facebook; this is the case with the ad on the landing page, composed of a creative graphic combined with an ad in text form. He also studied the use of ads on the home page that include social content allowing information about members of the social network to be added. Additionally, a format known as organic impression was used, which presents some claim or information about some of the members of the social network’s preferences regarding the advertising campaign. These last two advertising formats are based on what is known as earned media or publicity, a concept that has been used in the evaluation of public relations for years. Historically, publicity has corresponded with the number of times that a brand or brand-related image appeared in the nightly news, the front page of a newspaper, a movie or a television program. Publicity’s key lies in the brand not having paid for the exposure in any way. This means that the communication has been sufficiently interesting, entertaining and has sufficient journalistic interest for the media to continue repeating the ad voluntarily. Therefore, in new social media with social content, like SNSs, the consumer is invited to broadcast or sanction the brand to their online contacts through actions such as becoming a fan or by showing their approval of an action by liking, retweeting or favoriting. This tendency makes the brands resort to advertising tools that come from means of social communication known as organic impressions. With this in mind, hybrid-advertising formats are being developed between paid and earned media communication (Nielsen 2010).
The results obtained by Nielsen (2010) indicate that, in terms of advertising efficacy, when paid ads contain some sort of social content, they produce a higher rate of remembrance, awareness and purchasing intentions. Furthermore, it has been observed that users exposed consecutively to a paid ad and an ad containing organic content show a three-fold increase in memory of the ad in addition to elevated purchasing intent. Additionally, the extent of advertising efficacy was evaluated exclusively in terms of the organic formats, based on the number of exposures (frequency) necessary to produce a response from the user. It was found that knowledge and purchasing intention continue to grow after ten or more exposures to the message. Specifically, there is a gap in brand familiarity between consumers exposed to the message three to nine times compared to those exposed ten times or more, with positive significant differences showing in this last category. This reflects the strong impact that organic impressions have on users, increasing the users’ disposition to continue processing the messages during long periods of time. Therefore, the takeaway from this study is that, in order to maximize profit and potential from earned media, it is necessary to invest in advertising on social networks; after investment one must pursue positive actions on the part of users of the social network, as this adds social value to the add. Moreover, there is a strong relationship between the users of a social networks’ rate of participation in a campaign and the number of organic impressions that said users make (Nielsen 2010).
Additionally, in order to generate a reaction of some kind to the advertising message in any of its formats, it is essential to capture the social network user’s attention, keeping in mind the limitations of their attention. Specifically, some studies indicate that social network users do not notice advertising in the conventional forms that are used in other media (Soares et al. 2012). Up until now, users accepted a symbiotic relationship with conventional media (radio, television or press), in which the presence of advertisements in the medium was the price or remuneration for receiving content either free or at a reduced cost (Taylor et al. 2011). However, in SNSs this remuneration does not exist. This relationship has been modified because the advertisement intrusively interrupts the flow of the consumer’s activity. This explains why a high degree of trust is given to advertisements that arrive via Word-of-Mouth (WOM) between users (Steyn et al. 2010). Because of this the options provided by social networks such as Facebook like promoting ads or suggesting them to friends come into play (Murdough 2009). The benefits of positive WOM are important. It is estimated that each client who gets involved in the chain of WOM doubles the value of investment allocated to promoting a product or brand in comparison with ads sponsored by the brand. This behavior is able to convince twice as many clients to try or purchase the product. Nonetheless, businesses must be aware that negative WOM will have an inverse impact, even more powerful than positive WOM. It is therefore imperative to avoid negative WOM (see Trusov et al. 2010).
Recent research on advertising efficacy has focused on advertisement in social networks. Specifically, Wood (2012) notes that perceived emotions through the advertisement are predictive of the message’s efficacy, in terms of outperformed persuasion, brand linkage and cut-through measures.
5 Concluding Remarks
Advertising assumes a strategic role for many businesses that use the Internet. In advertising the approach to, finalization and evaluation of objectives are fundamental. Objectives should not solely be approached in terms of sales, as the effect of advertising on individuals is not always reflected in direct sales. Other variables such as the improvement of attitudes or future preferences towards the brand are worth outlining and obtaining. This chapter points out the special importance advertising has taken on in the academic sphere, with the evaluation of certain online advertising formats (e.g., banner) being especially prolific. Moreover, several lines of research have been highlighted for their relevancy and interest. Next, theoretical conclusions and noteworthy practices are commented upon.
Moderate use of banner animation. Excessive animation of the banner’s content can awaken negative attitudes towards the ad that, in turn, unleash undesirable behaviors such as advertising avoidance.
Banners must be located in the most visible zones of the webpage. The eye-tracking technique has proven to be very revealing on this idea. In occidental cultures, where the people read from left to right, the most-seen zones are located in the right margin, Moreover, the first pages of the navigation menu are preferable to the pages that require deeper navigation within a website content tree.
The banner’s content must be relevant to the user and should, therefore, be chosen based on their likes. Furthermore, the banner must be designed with the right kind of creativity.
Forced exposure to the banner should be reduced. It is recommendable to encourage voluntary exposure to the banner. The literature shows that voluntary exposure produces a greater probability of the message being processed in a conscious and favorable form by the user. This increases other behaviors such as the level of attention paid to the message, the likelihood of clicking, recognizing and remembering the brand and generally improving the attitudes and behaviors of the users in relation to the banner and brand. All this allows the navigator to obtain more information about a product or service, thereby increasing the possibilities of a future purchase.
Using SNSs as a means to grab the client’s attention or to house and centralize F.A.Q. is crucial. It is advisable to develop a climate that promotes the participation of consumers in the recommendation of products or services.
SNSs prove to be especially interesting as tool for exploring the market. They are valid for product testing, launching new products or services and analyzing options.
Social networks can provide information on the direction and tendencies of the market based on the changes observed in the consumers’ likes.
Due to the strategic value of these relationships, management and control of the SNSs should be assumed by professionals, hence the importance of the community manager (see Garrigos-Simon et al. 2012). In this respect, businesses should permanently engage once they have initiated activities in this setting. In other words, their strategies and actions must be planned and constant (Murdough 2009).
From the standpoint of greater monetization of SNSs through advertisement, the key is offering messages based in content that is both interesting and relevant to the user. The advertising innovation and creativity on SNSs can lead to voluntary and viral propagation of the advertiser’s messages, increasing the impact on the business’ target population. It is also important that SNSs make innovations in the use of metrics, allowing for better evaluation and control by businesses of their campaigns on social networks.
Establishing differences with regard to which categories of products are especially suited to be promoted via social networks must be done; another approach would be establishing if there are types of products or services not particularly fit for or not easily promoted through social networks.
Determining what the key is to creating a message that will go viral and be spread in the interest of the advertiser is essential. The advertising clutter in conventional media is one of the main causes for lack of advertising efficacy since it increases the probability that the users will not process the message. In this vein, it is fundamental to identify if the user perceives socials networks as a medium with excessive advertising clutter and, if that is the case, to what extent this disorder affects the processing and efficacy of the advertisement.
Evaluating the beliefs and attitudes generated by Internet and SNS advertising is necessary. There is a wide variety of advertising formats available on the Internet and in SNSs. It would be convenient to identify which of them could help achieve the proposed advertising goals, as well as which are more fitting for each proposed objective.
Companies must note the users’ type of access to the Internet and to SNSs. Soon mobile devices and mobile-adapted environments are going to become crucial for reaching consumers. For example, there is a clear tendency towards accessing SNSs on the go, through brief connections by means of mobile devices (i.e., smartphones and tablets). It is therefore of interest to analyze the efficacy of the advertisement in the mobile setting. Through mobiles devices, the advertiser can obtain precise information about the user’s location by using technologies like geolocalization. Information about the user’s whereabouts can provide an advantage to contextual advertising. In the same way, the noticeably smaller screen size of mobile devices constitutes a limitation that should be studied from diverse perspectives; e.g., the message’s perceived intrusiveness, the possibility of message evasion, the improvement of advertising creativity, or the possible limitations and advantages that mobile technology can offer.
The authors would like to thank the Research Project ECO2012-31712 under Subprogram for Non-Oriented Fundamental Research Projects, Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Spain for their financial support.
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