When it comes to display ads, bigger is better, according to Google.

The search giant has cooked up a new display ad format that’s designed to improve engagement with the target audience and ensure that more clicks are converted into sales.

Lightbox ads look much like typical display ads at first glance, but when users place their cursor over the ad, it balloons to fill most of the screen, displaying what Google’s Jim Lecinski has described as a full-sized canvas.

Mr Lecinski said that Google has worked hard to make sure that Lightbox ads are only likely to expand when an intentional interaction is made, only expanding to their full size if the user keeps their cursor over the ad for two seconds. This should reduce the number of accidental clicks, thereby resulting in improved conversion rates.

According to Mr Lecinski, tests show that engagement can increase by up to eight times when the Lightbox approach is compared with other display ads that include expandable elements.

Mr Lecinski talked up the benefits of the Google Display Network, stating that internal statistics gathered by the search engine giant suggest that sites which advertise using this model can expect to see a 35% increase in site visits and related search queries.

He links this approach to an improvement in the strength of a business’ brand, which can be reinforced via display ads and might well result in better campaign performance.

While marketers will only be charged if there is a click-based engagement with these new Lightbox display ads, it seems that a number of industry insiders are coming around to the idea that a brand can be strengthened based on the presence of ads alone, not just the clicks that they generate.

Facebook has been speaking about the benefits of its own ad network this month, pointing out that by running a campaign on its site it is possible for advertisers to make their brands more visible, which could have benefits even if engagement and sales are the ultimate goal.

A study commissioned by the site and carried out by Datalogix attempted to see if there was any real-world difference made by a Facebook campaign and how many people go out to buy products and services from the related brands, irrespective of whether they clicked on the ad to do so.

It was concluded that 99% of sales that occur as a direct result of the ad’s impact do not actually come after a direct user interaction, which downplays the importance of click-through statistics.

In an industry that is so focussed on the facts and figures generated by a single campaign, it is refreshing to note that there are some benefits to online advertising that can’t be measured.

As Lightbox seems to show, it pays to look at the bigger picture.

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About the author:

Oliver Pyper is senior online copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing. He writes on-page content, blogs, press releases and loads of other bits and pieces too numerous and brilliant to mention. He’s also responsible for Kate Bush: The Musical and a series of videos depicting a young man’s search for energy drinks in New York City. Drop him a line if you want to talk content solutions or Kate Bush.