I find myself faced with the question of whether to accept animated ads in an ad-based product. An animated ad likely detracts from the user's experience—everyone says they dislike them—but to what degree? I'm finding it difficult to find persuasive research quantifying that effect.
It's relatively easy to find data on the side of the advertiser or the site showing the ad. An animated ad will likely be noticed by more people, and can have higher click-through rates, which is what an advertiser is looking for. Accordingly, a site willing to show an animated ad can charge a higher premium for such an ad over a static ad. Animated ads = more revenue. It's hard to argue with that—especially at an ad-funded startup.
To put the potential revenue upside in perspective, I'm looking for concrete research on the impact of animated ads on the user experience. Here's the kind of research that would be most helpful:
- Hard data. An anecdotal personal claim that, "I refuse to use a site that shows an animated ad", holds little weight. Same goes for claiming, "Everyone hates animated ads... obviously!" If everyone hates animated ads, then it should be easy to find research proving that point.
- Focused on the actual effect on site usage. The little research I can find seems focused on user opinions. (Example, from Jakob Nielsen's AlertBox) I don't want to know whether people like animated ads—I want to know how much they actually impair site usage, or diminish a site's brand, or drive people away.
- Recent. I can't use a study done way back in the halcyon days of 1997 when the web was fresh and new and people didn't think there should be ads in it anywhere.
- Expressed in money terms. It'd be helpful to find, for example, a case study comparing a site's gain in ad revenue from the introduction of animated ads with the monetary downsides (if there are any) of those same ads.
- Objective. A tiny study done by a user interface designer with a personal bias may not help. A large study done by a company that's taking the long view, and trying to balance revenue with customer satisfaction would be better. A peer-reviewed scholarly paper on the topic would be ideal.
Any timely pointers here would be helpful in making this decision. Thanks.
Updated 6/22/08: A big thanks to Michael who in the comments posted links to a pair of relevant papers. Those papers were very helpful to us in deciding whether to accept animated advertisements. We ultimately did decide to accept animated ads, but did put in place some guidelines that we hope will keep out the more egregious uses of that medium.