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What Ad Format Is Best on Social Media?



A study conducted in May 2009 by research firm Psychster asked consumers how they interacted with ads on social sites (PDF). With almost 700 Facebook users and almost 500 users of the cooking/recipe/social website AllRecipes (who sponsored the study), Psychster showed participants a video of an ad type and an interaction. The participants then had to rate how likely they were to interact with the ad as the video did—and how they viewed the brand sponsoring the ads (either a soup brand or a car brand) in the video.

Perhaps most interesting from the above in that corporate profiles with fans and a logo performed slightly better than those without (though unless there’s a lot of rounding going on in the above chart, they could just as easily be placed in slots 3 and 5). These findings held true for both brands and both websites.

The data, however, should be taken with a grain of salt—watching a video of someone else performing an action is likely to increase the number of people reporting “Oh yeah, I’d do that.” A scientific study would be to observe their behavior instead of prompt it.

Sponsored content also scored the lowest for “I would recommend this brand to a friend” (3.4) and “I see this activity as an advertisement” (3.7). Banners and newsletters (4.2) were most likely to be seen as ads, while widgets and social media profiles only fell slightly behind (4.0).

The seven ad types and behaviors were:

1. Banner – This type consisted of a traditional ad on a website; the narrator clicked the ad to view the brand’s website.

2. Newsletter – This type consisted of an ad on a website; the narrator clicked an ad then signed up to receive the brand’s newsletter.

3. Corporate Profiles with Fans and Logos – This type consisted of a profile page, showing photos and notes left on a message board. The narrator further became a fan of the brand, and upon doing so, places the corporate logo on his or her own profile.

4. Corporate Profiles without Fans and Logos – This ad type was identical to the former, except that no mention of fans or logos is made.

5. Get Widget – This ad type consisted of a widget application where the narrator created a digital product and saved it for him or herself. For the car brand, the digital product was a car with customized interior and exterior colors. For the soup brand, the digital product was a collection of recipes based on an ingredient search.

6. Give Widget – This ad type was identical to the Get Widget, except that after creating the digital product, the narrator sent it via email to a friend.

7. Sponsored Content – This ad type consisted of a special St. Patrick’s Day page with a mix of editorial and user-generated content. Twice during the video, the narrator pointed out that the page was sponsored by a company (either the leading soup brand or the leading car brand).

However, the most significant influence appeared to be matching the brand to the site’s audience. The soup brand performed better on AllRecipes, no matter what ad type they used.

What do you think?