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Display advertising more effective when combined with search

Display advertising more effective when combined with search

By Microsoft adCenter 

As businesses worldwide spend ever-larger sums on internet advertising, most are seeking clear evidence of the types of ad that are most effective online. Recognising the lack of research in this area, Microsoft designed a study with comScore to investigate the effects of integrating search ads with display campaigns. When a leading high street bank decided to run a major online promotion, it was the perfect opportunity for Microsoft to carry out the research.

Campaign Objectives

A leading high street bank wanted to launch an online campaign to drive traffic to its website and encourage users to spend more time interacting with the site. It was keen to work with a web publisher that could accurately measure the impact of combined search and display advertising.

Creative Solution and Research Method In 2007, the bank worked with Microsoft Advertising to place banner ads on the MSN homepage. At the same time, experts from the adCenter division helped the organization to distribute ads across Live Search, as part of a wider search campaign. The ads ran for one month. During the campaign, the team at Microsoft collaborated with comScore to investigate the effects of combining search and display ads. Subjects for the study were selected from the comScore research panel — a network of millions of volunteers worldwide. This meant that the research team avoided using tools such as questionnaires, which can influence results.

The research tracked subjects’ online behaviour before and after they saw the campaign, including the amount of time they spent on the bank’s website. Crucially, each research subject was compared with a non-exposed control, carefully matched based on criteria such as age, gender, and time spent on financial websites.

The methodology also separated people into three groups: those who saw only the display ads; those who only saw the search ads; and those who saw both types of ad. This meant that the research team could measure the effects of the search and display ads individually, as well as the effects of combining the two.


The campaign reached a huge audience, with 11 million unique users seeing the display ads alone, generating more than 52 million impressions. Moreover, the research showed that combining search and display advertising greatly increased the effectiveness of these impressions. Analysis of the results highlighted that:

Search and display advertising together increased traffic to the bank’s website during the campaign period by 23 percentage points — seven times more than the display ads alone, and three times more than the search ads
The combination also increased time spent on the website by 8.8 percentage points—six times more than display alone
Search and display combined increased visits to secure pages on the bank’s website during the campaign by 14.9 percentage points — more than seven times as much as display alone

“The results clearly show how effective it is for businesses to use search and display ads side by side. Microsoft has the expertise and the audience to make these combined campaigns work.”

Piers Stobbs, Vice President, comScore Interaction UK.


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