The world of web and mobile display advertising has changed with the advent of Big Data and attendant analytics capability. Where once one faced the possibility of looking at irrelevant or, worse, offensive ads when one visited a site, many of today’s ad networks have made use of browsers’ histories and search data to serve up ads that are more related to users’ interests.

One ad company that has been at the forefront of this change is Criteo. An ad network specialising in performance display ads, Criteo claims that its ads have achieved nearly six times the rate of return compared with traditional internet ads.

Now, Criteo has released a white paper detailing an ad research that it has done over eight months, in collaboration with Nielsen. In September and October 2012, Criteo inserted Nielsen tags in all ads displayed globally, which allowed Nielsen to measure Key Performance Indicators such as clicks by viewers. The study sample consisted of 220,000 monthly US panelists and 22,000 monthly French panelists, carefully selected to be representative of these countries’ respective online populations.

The study holds true for other markets as well, according to Patrick Wyatt, Head of Business Intelligence at Criteo. “We believe that the results of this study are directly applicable to Asian markets — if  you show a relevant banner to well-targeted users, then they click and they buy,” he said, adding, “To the extent that profile of online shoppers is different in Asia, then there could be some differences, but we don’t believe that this changes the core message of this study.”

In addition, Wyatt claims that the results of the study will be even more relevant as more companies take up performance advertising. “We expect that as the penetration of performance ads increases, the percentage of users who are clickers will tend to increase, as will the frequency of their clicks,” he noted. “The other phenomena that we observed (such as increased search activity, and attractive demographics) we expect to hold true at higher take up rates,” said Wyatt.

Read Also: Criteo promises better ad engagement for brands in Southeast Asia

The following are the three key points of the study that show that performance display advertising do make a measurable, positive change over traditional display ads:

1. Performance display has a large and unique audience
Citing a report from comScore MMX, the paper noted that Criteo campaigns reached 850 million unique users in September 2013. This was more than the Google Search network, which had 543 million unique users, making Criteo the second largest Display Ad Ecosystem after Google Display Network.

The paper also showed that at least 19.4 per cent of internet users clicked on at least one Criteo ad during the study period, with 72.9 per cent of the clickers clicking three times or less, implying that those clickers were legitimate and not click bots. In addition, while looking at the first two months of the study period, Criteo found out that the first month accounted for just 49.8 per cent of clicks and 60.9 per cent of clickers. This shows that performance display ads have an increased reach, targeting more unique, as opposed to repeat, viewers.

2. Clickers on performance display are more valuable than the average internet user
From a previous study, Criteo found out that clickers buy three times more often than non-clickers, and that 20 per cent of users are responsible for nearly 50 per cent of clicks and sales. Now, this study further shows the improved targeting of performance display ads, for instance that clickers of performance display ads tend towards the older and more affluent, making them more likely to buy a product they’ve seen in an ad.

According to the study, American and French internet users clicking on performance display ads are skewed towards those over 35 years old and with an annual income of over US$75,000. Also, the demographics of clickers are consistent with advertisers’ core targets, for example there are more men (72 per cent) than women (28 per cent) for tech products, and more women (68 per cent) than men (32 per cent) for fashion and luxury products.

3. Search and performance display work well together
It may seem foolish for a company that has spent a lot of money on search engine optimisation and marketing to spend even more on performance display ads, cannibalising their viewers and limiting their reach. However, Criteo’s paper shows this to be not the case, where 65 per cent of French internet users who clicked on performance display ads did not click on search engine marketing links within the same industry.

Specifically, performance display ads showed the most increase in intent for expensive “big ticket” products. During the two-month study, 91 per cent of internet users clicking on real estate display campaigns, and 81 per cent of those clicking on automotive display campaigns, did not click on search engine marketing ads. What this shows is that performance ads generate synergy when combined with search engine marketing, increasing the reach of advertising campaigns.

Here is an infographic from Criteo that summarises the above points:

Turning Viewers Into Clickers - Criteo infographic