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CNET Networks: Bringing Starch to the Web on GameSpot. A partnership with Ignited Minds. Objectives Examine issues related to online advertising and to understand the principles of online creative – what works, what does not, and why.

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objectives
Objectives
  • Examine issues related to online advertising and to understand the principles of online creative – what works, what does not, and why.
  • Create an approach to measuring online creative based on Starch’s decades of expertise in measuring print.
  • Create actionable principles that can be used to help advertisers create more effective online advertising.
methodology
Methodology
  • Working with Ignited Minds, we modified and expand the questioning areas of the Starch readership method to adapt to the online environment.
  • GameSpot created a mock web site.
  • In December 2004, GameSpot intercepted visitors via a pop-up on the regular Web site and asked them to complete the survey.
  • Visitors were randomly exposed to 10 online advertisements while navigating the mock site.
  • Respondents were then taken to the survey where they were shown the 10 ads that they had been exposed to on the GameSpot mock Web site and asked a series of questions about each ad.
  • In total, we tested the performance of 100 online advertisements. A minimum of 300 interviews were conducted on each test ad.
five ad sizes were tested
Five Ad Sizes Were Tested
  • MPU: Messaging Plus Unit, which provides a platform for marketers to deliver a rich message. Large rectangle (336 X 280).
  • Skyscrapers: Wide skyscraper. Dimensions are 160 X 600.
  • Leaderboard: Located near the top of GameSpot content pages. Dimensions are 728 X 90.
  • Wide Screen: Appears on the front door of GameSpot below the fold and takes up the full width of the page. Dimensions are 620 X 190.
  • Big Screen: Appears on the front door of GameSpot and resolves into editorial content. Dimensions are 458 X 160.
respondent demographics
Respondent Demographics

Visitors to GameSpot are highly qualified to evaluate gaming ads

  • 94% male
  • Average age 25.4 years
  • Spent an average of nearly $1000 on games in past year
  • Spend more than 2 hours per day, on average, playing games

In addition, GameSpot enjoys remarkably strong affinity from its visitors:

  • 88% say GameSpot is a must visit Web site
  • 94% trust the content
  • 94% would recommend GameSpot
  • 94% say GameSpot is one of their favorites
the findings
The Findings

Finding 1: Take full advantage of unique creative unit strengths

Finding 2: More Integration between creative and media teams may improve ad performance

Finding 3: Online ads can communicate on both a rational and emotional level

Finding 4: Six principles emerged

  • Encourage the visuals to pop
  • Avoid exaggerated cartoons and the “Monty Python Effect”
  • Beat ‘em up with the benefits
  • That old devil, sex, still attracts attention – but it’s not always enough
  • Give them something to look at
  • Keep it simple
overview
Overview
  • We have selected the ads that we feel best exemplify the findings that we have determined are most likely to affect the performance of an ad.
  • It is important to point out that these findings are not absolutes; they are guidelines.
  • Online ads can communicate on both a rational and emotional level
  • Nevertheless, definite patterns have emerged, and we believe that advertisers who follow these patterns will dramatically increase the probability that their ads will attract and hold the viewer’s attention
finding 1 take full advantage of unique creative unit strengths
Finding 1: Take Full Advantage of Unique Creative Unit Strengths
  • Not all ad units are created equally.
  • Don’t take a one size fits all approach when utilizing different ad sizes.

MPUs: showcase visually rich graphics and motion

Leaderboards: communicate vital messages such as product title, product image, and release date

Skyscrapers: show a full-size image such as a game character or model

finding 2 more integration between creative and media teams may improve ad performance
Finding 2: More Integration Between Creative and Media Teams May Improve Ad Performance
  • Individual ad units can play different roles in the campaign.
  • It’s important to understand how ad units work separately and how they can contribute to the overall campaign.
finding 3 online ads can communicate on both a rational and emotional level
Finding 3: Online Ads Can Communicate On Both a Rational and Emotional Level
  • One-third of the top performing ads focused on emotional benefits.
  • Incorporating both emotional and rational elements in the ad may be the best combination.
finding 4 six general principles emerged
Finding 4: Six General Principles Emerged
  • Encourage the visuals to POP
  • Avoid exaggerated cartoons and the “Monty Python effect”
  • Beat ‘em up with the benefits
  • That old devil, sex, still attracts attention – But it’s not always enough
  • Give them something to look at
  • Keep it simple
principle 1 encourage the visuals to pop
Principle 1: Encourage the Visuals to POP
  • Heighten contrast, avoid monochromatic images and be visually aggressive
  • Black backgrounds seem to be particularly effective in giving the image a three-dimensional effect and, as a result, real visual drama.
  • Action (either words or images) coming toward the viewer resulted in higher scores. Don’t pull back.
principle 2 avoid exaggerated cartoons and the monty python effect
Principle 2: Avoid Exaggerated Cartoons and “The Monty Python” Effect
  • In print, photographs fare better than exaggerated cartoons.
  • Online ads represent a fascinating hybrid: They are drawings, but very realistic ones and the best enjoy attraction and appreciation.
  • Avoid using static images, often exaggerated drawings, that float across a screen in a visually incompatible way.
principle 3 beat em up with the benefits
Principle 3: Beat ‘Em Up With the Benefits
  • We should all remember that the consumer’s most pressing question is, “What’s in it for me?”.
  • A fair number of the highest scoring ads display product benefits such as testimonials or recommendations from third-party sources.
  • Offering benefits will not do any harm, and, for newer, lesser known games, may be the difference between advertising success and failure.
principle 4 that old devil sex still attracts attention but it s not always enough
Principle 4: That Old Devil, Sex, Still Attracts Attention—But it’s not Always Enough
  • Ads that feature sex perform along the same lines as those with the same approach in print–and any other medium.
  • Audience is predominantly young and male.
  • Ads within the same campaign score differently based on the amount of skin they show.
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Principle 5: Give Them Something to Look at: Focal Points and Holistic (Non-Truncated) Images are Particularly Important
  • The eye wants to see and to see clearly. Provide a clear focal point.
  • Despite the evolution of youth, this principle hasn’t changed.
principle 6 keep it simple
Principle 6: Keep It Simple
  • Among the top twenty ads many are remarkable for their simplicity.
  • The more cluttered the ad, the lower the readership.
  • An eye-filling picture is very often sufficient for the task of attracting a viewer’s attention.
summary
Summary
  • We’ve continued our commitment to online marketing innovation by bringing Starch to the Web for the first time.
  • Principles developed by Starch over decades of research on print translate to the Web.
  • Study provides insights into creative elements that work best online, likeability of ads, effectiveness of message communication, and ad unit usage for best results.
  • Continuing this research through studies on other CNET Networks sites.
starch definitions of terms
Starch Definitions of Terms

Noted: The percent of readers who remember having seen the ad on the web site. Noted is a measure of an ad’s “stopping power.”.

Associated: The percent of readers who said they knew who the advertiser was after seeing the ad. Associated is a measure of branding.

Dislikeability: The percent of readers who said they either disliked the ad “very much” or “somewhat.”

Likeability: The percent who said they either liked the ad “very much” or liked it “somewhat.”

One of the Best: The percent who rated the ad as one of the best that they had seen.

indexed performance by ad type
Indexed Performance by Ad Type

It appears that ads in the MPU format are most likely to generate the most favorable responses and ads in the Wide format, the least favorable. This does not necessarily mean that the format itself has inherent problems. It is more likely that the ads in that format employ creative approaches that do not resonate with viewers.