Screenshot of ESPN website and pictures of sports players
By Ben Pashman Dec 28 2012 Blog

Beautiful Web Design Drives Ad Performance

Last month during my web presentation “Viewability: What publishers need to know to compete for dollars,” there were a lot of questions from the audience about whether sites would have to drastically change their layout in order to maintain their premium inventory status once it becomes necessary to transition sites from a “served” to a “viewed” impression measurement standard.

At the time, I provided two examples – ESPN and USA Today – of sites that had found success by limiting the number of ad units on their sites and kept their ads either “above the fold” or had them “float” to follow the reader as he or she scrolled down to view content.

Today, there’s a little more quantitative information to drive the thinking about what role website design plays in driving what every brand wants: Purchase intent and consumer satisfaction.

Undertone, the digital advertising company, recently put a whitepaper titled “Understanding the Drivers of Standout Video Experiences” which looked at levels of consumer engagement with video ads based on the size of the video player, the player’s location on the page and the quality of the website in terms of the holistic environment, the quality of the content and ad visibility.

To summarize, Undertone found that:

  • Player position had little impact on consumer response
  • Larger video players evoked higher levels of brand awareness and can mitigate the negative effects often associated with auto-pay ads
  • Click-to-play ads elicit nearly 4 times more positive emotions from consumers than auto-play ads.

But though their research was focused on video ads, the main takeaway from the findings speaks to a broader audience: The quality of the site a video ad appears on is the primary driver of brand perception, consumer intent, engagement and overall satisfaction.

The authors implore readers of the whitepaper to think carefully about site quality when crafting their video buys:

“While the method of video engagement emerged as the main element for driving ad awareness, the study found that the quality of the website a video ad appears on is the most important factor for driving intent to purchase. These results confirm the halo effect that exists when a brand is present among high-quality content.”

Furthermore, it’s not only a matter of the quality of the content: “The research clearly demonstrates that the more well-perceived a website is, the better the ads will be received.”

“Perception” of high quality is, by its nature, hard to quantify, but the consumer preference for it speaks to how crucial it will be for publishers to provide a superior user experience once viewable impressions become standard. In other words, now is the time to start differentiating you sites – and by extension, your advertising inventory – as “premium.”

There are different approaches to this. As mentioned during our webinar, USA Today recently “app-ified” their site by making it less cluttered and serving only one above-the-fold ad designed to follow the user as he or she scrolls on the page. Other tenets of “web app-ification” hold that the design should be light on text, image-rich and easy-to-share.

No matter what strategy you use to achieve a high-quality web experience, the goal is to drive higher engagement and ad performance overall. This should be at top of mind when working with content and marketing teams to build, refresh or re-launch a site that advertisers will flock to.

The prospect of redesigning your web site might be daunting and expensive, but there’s no substitute for the halo effect an advertiser can receive from running on truly valued content.  The combination of premium content within a site designed for a truly premium ad experience will result in maximum impact for your brand advertisers.

Read more about Undertone’s study on MediaPost or download the whitepaper here