News / AOL Blog

Consumers First: Best Practices for Creating Engaging Ad Experiences

Dec 13, 2011

You all undoubtedly remember the "Natural Born Clickers" study that was released by comScore in conjunction with Starcom USA and Tacoda back in 2007. Findings showed that only 32% of online users clicked on at least one display ad during one month. Surely, driving sales isn't the only goal of a campaign but it's supposed to account for something, right?

Fast forward to late 2009 when the three got back together to revisit the results. New research showed that 32% was cut by half; only 16% of all internet users were clicking on at least one display ad in a month. An even deeper dive showed that 8% of internet users accounted for 85% of all clicks.

8%? No marketer would ever produce a campaign that targeted just 8% of the population. Yet, that's what they were doing by building campaigns around the click. We at AOL – and a lot of the digital advertising industry – believe there is a better metric: engagement. Which is why in June 2011, AOL commissioned Nielsen to conduct a research study to find out who is naturally prone to engaging with online advertising.

The study, which came to be known as "Consumers First: Best Practices For Creating Engaging Ad Experiences", took a look at the intersection of the population exposed to Premium Formats with Nielsen's robust online panel to garner insights about consumers' online advertising behavior. We wanted to develop a profile of who is engaging with online ads, what they think about display and how to create a robust experience for them online.

One of our first findings was that 59% of users say they dislike online display ads. However, with internal data showing that AOL Premium Formats saw 15M interactions over the course of three months, we knew someone was engaging – a group that we dubbed "Engagers". Engagers are users who actively, intentionally interact with an ad unit, and these people will interact with online advertising, if you give them a reason to.

To find out what makes up an Engager and how to get them interacting with online ads, click here to download the full study.

Source: comScore, Inc. custom analysis, Total US Online Population, XPC Persons Panel, July 2007 data period
Source: Nielsen Custom Study, August 2011