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Once Upon a Time: Successful Online Ads Tell a Story

Once Upon a Time: Successful Online Ads Tell a Story
Credit: Alpha Spirit/Shutterstock

Ads that tell a story have the greatest impact on consumers, new research suggests.

Digital media ad campaigns that tell a brand story before asking people to buy something are significantly more effective than ads that immediately encourage people to take an action, the study shows. Results come from research by Facebook and the social media advertising technology firm Adaptly.

For the study, researchers generated two ad campaigns on Facebook for Refinery29, an independent fashion and lifestyle website, and then compared the rate of email subscriptions and visits to the ads' landing pages.

One "sustained call-to-action" campaign featured Facebook ads that used creative content and images focused strictly on generating email subscriptions. The other campaign featured different "sequenced" ads that first told the brand story and then provided product information before inviting people to sign up. Ads for both campaigns ran in the Facebook News Feed to similar audiences.

The researchers found that among those who saw the sequenced ads compared with those who saw the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87 percent increase in people visiting the landing page. Additionally, there was a 56 percent increase in email subscription rates among people who saw the sequenced ads.

The study also revealed that people who were exposed to all three of the ads in the sequence converted at higher rates than those who had seen just one or two of the ads. However, even those who saw just one of the ads converted at higher rates than people in a control group who saw no ads.

"Some advertisers may find it counterintuitive to elongate a campaign as a way to more gradually bring their audience through the purchase funnel, rather than more immediately delivering a call to action," Adaptly's CEO Nikhil Sethi said in a statement. "But we have proven that this classic brand-building approach is both effective and efficient, even for direct response advertising."

Based on the study's results, Adaptly advises businesses to consider testing a "sequenced" marketing message, even if the goal is direct response, to improve the results that matter to the campaign or the brand.

In addition, the agency advises marketers to adjust their campaigns' messages depending on what people know about the brand. Researchers said brands that have a higher level of awareness may be able to focus more on purchase intent and conversion than can less well-known brands.

"Quality and engagement are critical when developing a customer base with real lifetime value," said Melissa Goidel, chief revenue officer at Refinery29. "By telling the Refinery29 story during the acquisition process, and building awareness and consideration before driving to conversion, we were able to increase our return-on-investment and ultimately acquire a more informed and qualified [email] subscriber."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.