iMedia Connection

Sugarshots Test: To Animate or Not?

Doug Schumacher
Campaign Details:
Client: Sugarshots, Inc.
Agency: Basement, Inc.
Ad Network: 24/7 Real Media
Ad Serving + Tracking: Atlas DMT
Site Analytics: Think Metrics
Useful links:

Ad 1: Static gif
Ad 2: Animated flash

Dynamic inflatables: they twist, they dance -- dynamic inflatables get LOTS of attention!

That's the description on a website for a promotional gimmick we've all seen; those hot-air infused nylon characters that shake and shimmy in front of mattress stores and gas stations. The key value-proposition they state in the website copy? Attention. In last week's article, I mentioned the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) hierarchy of effects as a marketing behavioral model. I also suggested that online campaigns typically split AIDA down the middle, with the banner responsible for the A and the I, and the landing page typically responsible for the D and the second A. It's admittedly a generalization, but an accurate one, I think. If we look at a banner ad, we can see that it really has two primary components: to get someone's attention, and to interest him/her enough to seek additional information on the subject. The expandable banners or streaming videos may take the message on to the Desire point, and that could very well be a reason why they tend to work so well. However, this week we're testing capabilities within more standard ad units.

Testing Strategy
What we'll explore in this test is the impact of an attention-getting device in our creative. Ask almost anyone who isn't in the business, and they'll likely say they don't notice online ads. It's a problem that isn't unique to online ads, either. Obviously, animation is one potential solution to that problem.

Accurately testing animation versus static requires a parallel structure to the individual ads. Both ads need to have the same concept, with the only difference being that one has animation at the onset while the other one doesn't.

Going back to our AIDA model, the Interest component would be the same for each ad. We're placing emphasis for this test on the attention-getting tactic of animation. What this dictates is that the animation isn't innately part of the concept, but rather a way of adding an eye-grabbing component to the ad. To be fair, this test restricts the concept to animating something that wouldn't necessarily need it. This means that a story-line animation that couldn't be replicated in a static ad wouldn't be a fair comparison for the power of animation. I wanted to test this because a lot of ads employ the tactic of taking what could otherwise be a static ad, and adding motion graphics to it for extra sizzle. I don't think animation is a requirement for a good online ad, I think this is a valid test. However, it seems a lot of companies view it as necessary for driving good results. Is the additional cost of animating, usually in Flash, worth the expense? This test could give us an answer for that Testing Construct

This test is primarily testing front-end results, so we'll use Café and animate the illustration. As you might remember, Café didn't perform as well as Rasputin on the backend, but was equally effective on the front-end, in terms of generating visits.

I wanted to use Café because of its highly-graphic and unusual animation potential. This approach is something I wanted to try after seeing the Flash technique used by my friends at Propane Studios on a site for Joseph's Café.

Our test this week includes running one animated Café ad against a non-animated one. We've also kept the animation down to around 3 seconds, so as to not lose anyone whose attention we've grabbed. You can view both of these above.

As for media placements, they'll both run with roughly equal impressions across the same targeted media plan on the 24/7 network, which we've been using for past tests.

Goals and Objectives

If there's one issue that seems to be on the collective mind of this industry now, it's ROI. Animation is a good example of a marketing investment that could bring better results. It costs more to produce, but hopefully the additional attention it generates will more than pay for itself.

Will the animation on Café prove to be an attention getting device, or will it simply get in the way of what's already been a strong performing, visually-driven concept. We'll find out this Thursday.

Doug Schumacher is the president of Basement, Inc.