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Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Branded Cursor

Since conducting the first-ever online advertising effectiveness study in 1996, I've had the opportunity
to see the results of well-over a hundred online advertising executions. Of these, the Branded Cursor
is among the most interesting. From a researcher's point of view, the Branded Cursor is extremely
effective in building a brand.
What does it mean to build a brand? It means getting consumers to remember the brand and to
believe that brand will meet their needs. Building a brand means getting consumers to want to buy
your brand over competitive offerings.
The evidence of this report is that the Branded Cursor can really help build a brand and that's great
news for advertisers. As a key brand-building component, this innovative new tool for advertisers can
markedly raise consumers' ad awareness and brand awareness. The lift in ad awareness was an
almost unheard of 222%, and the lift in top-of-mind unaided brand awareness was an impressive
39%. Additionally, we found that the Branded Cursor can assist a banner in increasing overall opinion,
purchase intent, and perceptions of brand.
Why does the Branded Cursor work? Quite simply, it works because it is an effective "creative
magnifier." Creative magnifier, a term coined by Millward Brown, describes the most involving aspect
of an advertisement. A good example of a creative magnifier is the pink bunny used by the Energizer
battery campaign. Most people, when asked to describe an Energizer battery ad, will describe the ad
by talking about the pink bunny banging on the Energizer drum.
The bunny might be in only a small portion of the commercial, but it is the part of the ad that people
recall the most. The Branded Cursor will be an integral part of many highly memorable online
campaigns because, when used properly, it can drive home the messages that advertisers want to
send. It is essential that the creative magnifier include the brand name or some mnemonic device that
generates brand-linked recall. This helps the ad communicate effectively.
Online advertisers should be careful to appreciate the advantages of the Branded Cursor without
attempting to use it to accomplish benefits for which it was not designed. After all, any given cursor
will most likely not become much larger than the size of a nickel. This space constriction means that
the cursor is not well used as a medium to communicate a message or attempt to change perceptions
for the sponsoring brand-messages are better communicated in the banner advertisements to which
the cursor is linked. The benefit of this, however, is that the banner is set free to focus primarily on
communicating about the brand rather than attempting to generate awareness, which is more
effectively achieved with the cursor.
Overall, the Branded Cursor is an extremely effective tool for improving all aspects of an online
advertising campaign. Understanding the best uses and limitations will ensure that online advertisers
receive the optimum level of efficiency from the Branded Cursor.
Overview of Methodology

This study is designed to determine if the Branded Cursor is an effective form of advertising on the
Web. Below, we provide an overview of the methodology for this study.
The study uses the most rigorous methodology for evaluating effect - the classic experimental research design. An experimental design makes the most accurate possible examination of an effect (in this case, the effect caused by an additional exposure to a Branded Cursor-enabled Web advertising banner) by ensuring that all variables, except for the one being tested, are controlled for. The experimental design isolates the effect of a Branded Cursor-enabled Web advertising banner exposure because the characteristics of the exposed cell are identical to those of the control cell (based on the random assignment of respondents to exposed and control cells). The only difference between the control and exposed population is that the exposed cell had one additional exposure to the tested Branded Cursor-enabled Web ad banner. To illustrate the study design process, imagine you are one of the Web users who had a chance to be randomly sampled at a Web site over the course of the study (December 10, 1998 to January 14, 1999). The participating sites included (,, GameSpot (,, and You click on the hypertext link to access Beatrice's Web Guide at A proprietary sampling algorithm developed by Millward Brown runs in a matter of milliseconds. All users have an equal chance of being randomly sampled. If you are not selected, you receive the Web page you requested. If you are sampled, you are taken to a Branded Cursor download page. This page asks you to download the Branded Cursor and solicits your participation in a short demographic and Webographic study. Respondents are given a clear opportunity to opt out of the download and questionnaire by clicking on a link on the page. Those that downloaded were taken to the demographic survey. We also asked for an email address so that we could recontact the respondent and enter them into a contest to thank them for their participation. 24 percent of sampled users completed the demographic wave of the survey, generating a base size of 10,733 respondents. After completing the survey, respondents clicked on "submit survey" and were then served "Beatrice's Web Guide" (the page they had initially requested). We leveraged the one-to-one capability of the medium and served one of three ads based on random assignment. One third were exposed to a control ad, one third were exposed to a branded ad and one third were exposed to a branded ad with the Branded Cursor. This individualized delivery of advertisements was invisible to the user. The page position and dimensions of the branded and control ads are identical. At a predetermined point in time after exposure to the branded or control Web ad banner, ranging from one day to one week, Millward Brown emailed respondents requesting that they access a Web page "to help answer a few more questions". We asked both control and exposed respondents identical questions related to the "branded banner" brand specifically and advertising in general. 18 percent of wave one respondents completed the second wave, generating a base size of 1932 respondents. Those who completed the second wave showed no statistically significant differences from those who completed the first wave in terms of the variables we measured in the first wave (specifically: age, sex, time spent online in a typical week, year first accessed the Web). By virtue of the study design, we are able to measure the effect of one additional ad exposure while controlling for all other variables that could affect the advertising impact metrics. Because test and control respondents were randomly assigned and were exposed to identical stimulus, the hypothesis is that responses from test and control cells should be statistically identical unless the single additional exposure to the Web ad banner caused an effect. A methodology of this type sets a high standard for advertising effectiveness because it is a precise measure of one additional exposure to a Web ad banner. Brands Tested
This report provides the results of two case studies on the effectiveness of the Branded Cursor. The
specific brands tested were Pepcid AC and Crest.
Conclusions and Implications
These research case studies have shown that the Branded Cursor brings advertising front and center,
increasing advertising awareness and brand recall.
1. The Branded Cursor significantly builds ad awareness.
Respondents exposed to the Branded cursor-enabled advertisement were overwhelmingly more likely
to recall seeing advertising for the tested brand. Overall the addition of the Branded Cursor to the
branded banner ad resulted in a ten-fold increase in advertising awareness (222% increase compared
to a 22% increase for the banner ad alone).
This significant finding is underscored when compared to other online advertising, which has been
seen to generate an average increase of 30% higher ad recall The implication: This finding shows that
the Branded Cursor is an extremely effective for improving communications
efficiency. More people are likely to see Branded Cursor advertising resulting in an improved
opportunity to communicate with the consumer.
2. The Branded Cursor builds brand recall.

Branded Cursor-enabled advertising banners were more effective at building brand recall than a
simple ad banner alone. Top-of-mind brand recall increased by 39%, on average, for a cursor-enabled
banner ad compared to 17% for a banner ad alone.
The implication: By bringing the advertising front and center, Branded Cursor advertising has the
ability to improve a brand's "share of mind". People exposed to a Branded Cursor-enabled banner are
more likely to spontaneously recall the advertised brand than those exposed to a banner alone.
3. The Branded Cursor increases clickthrough rates.

Cursor-enabled advertising significantly increased the clickthrough rates for both tested brands. The
Branded Cursor-enabled advertising generated an average increase of 97% over a banner ad alone.
This significant finding is underscored by the fact that the ads tested are for packaged goods which
seek to increase the branding opportunity rather than seeking to increase direct response.
The implication: Cursor-enabled banners benefit from the increased visibility created by the Branded
Cursor; this in turn increases the number of people who respond immediately to an advertisement by
clicking through.
4. The Branded Cursor can improve a consumer's perception of the brand.
The Branded Cursor-enabled advertising demonstrated an ability to affect perceptions. Overall
opinion of tested brands received greater increases as a result of exposure to the Branded Cursor-
enabled banner, compared to a banner ad alone. In the Pepcid AC case study, overall opinion of the
brand increased by 29%. Perceptions of the Pepcid AC brand were positively impacted by the
Branded Cursor-enabled banner ad showing significant shifts in the image of the brand.
The implication: With the advertising awareness increasing, the ability of the banner to affect
consumers' impression of the brand is enhanced. Cursor-enabled banners help to leverage the
banner advertising increasing its chances for success.
5. The Branded Cursor can increase purchase intent.

The Branded Cursor-enabled advertisement for Pepcid AC generated a significant lift in intent to
purchase. In the Pepcid AC case study, intent to purchase the brand increased by 26%, for a Branded
Cursor-enabled banner, compared to no change for a banner ad alone.
The implication: A Branded Cursor-enabled banner becomes more involving resulting in respondents
paying more attention to the message, which can result in increases in their likelihood to purchase.
The cursor provides the banner with a better opportunity for success.
Detailed Findings
What is the Branded Cursor?
The Branded Cursor is a Web-based tool that allows site designers to spice up their sites by swapping
in an image or animation for the traditional black-and-white arrow. Some of the ways in which the
cursor has been applied are:
• branding opportunities
• customizing the cursor
• improving navigation
• creating interactive games and contests.
Specifically, this research focuses on measuring the branding impact of the Branded Cursor. This
report seeks to answer the question: "Will tying a branded cursor to an ad banner increase the
effectiveness of communications?"
The Branded Cursor is implemented as a software extension to the industry-standard Web browsers
Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The extension software allows browsers to
interpret special instructions on a Web page and then download and display custom cursor images in
specified contexts.
In order to be able to view cursor-enabled Web content, users must first download the free Branded
Systems Software, which takes little more than 10 seconds. As part of this research, all of the
respondents were asked to download the Branded Systems Software. When asked their opinion of
the download process, the majority of the respondents responded that the process was very easy.
"What did you think of the download process?"
Measuring Effectiveness - what should we expect when measuring online advertising? Before we launch into the detailed findings, it is essential to take a moment to consider the advertising environment we find ourselves in, and the manner in which we can appropriately measure advertising impact. What defines a successful advertisement? Most agree that it is the right message, targeted to the right consumers at the right time. The "right message" will be perceived to be of interest, relevance, or value. It must create a brand-linked impression that will be activated in appropriate circumstances (for example, when the brand is to be considered for purchase, on a "short-list" of brands to be investigated further, or when another person asks your opinion about the product). These moments of brand contemplation are critical to an advertiser's success. If their brand isn't on the consumers' minds, or worse, has negative associations, sales are lost. It is key that advertising messages convey interest, relevance, or value in such a way that the consumer will commit the message to memory. Brands are the mechanism for this. However it can be quite difficult in the midst of competing message - a fact to which many advertising agencies can attest. As an increasing amount of input floods consumers' lives and competes for their attention, consumers enhance their filtering mechanisms. Input that is not perceived to be of interest, relevance, or value is not committed to long-term memory and is quickly forgotten. Another consequence of increased information input is the reduction of time to contemplate, consider, and reflect. Wired magazine dubbed Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) the "official disorder of the information age." If there is any validity to Wired's claim, advertisers will find it increasingly difficult to vie for consumers' dwindling attention span. To cope with the deluge of input, consumers seek simplifying mechanisms for decision making. One of the best examples these simplifying mechanisms is brands. Brands encapsulate the sum meaning of the associations consumers have about a product or service. Brands operate on multiple levels. On a mundane level, brands can communicate consistency of product performance to the consumer. At an introspective level, by purchasing one brand over another, the consumer validates and reinforces what he or she values. As a social reference tool, brands act as totems, communicating to others how we see ourselves and how we wish to be perceived. Brands act to focus and neatly package multiple levels of meaning for the consumer. This reification, which is strongly influenced by advertising, simplifies communication and brand selection for the consumer. To some extent, all advertising (and other types of communication) share a common characteristic: while many viewers/users have brand-linked impressions of ads they see, a majority of advertisements either do not register a brand-linked memory, or are quickly forgotten by the viewer. This is a reality of advertising and communication. Advertisements don't just compete against each other for share-of-voice and share-of-mind; advertisements compete against everything that hopes to secure our attention. Advertisements have a challenging mandate: lock brand-linked associations into long-term memory in a way that consumers will draw on these brand memories when brand interaction occurs-such as during a purchase occasion. We measure brand-linked impressions by asking consumers if they have seen an advertisement for a particular brand recently. In taking this measurement, we begin by providing no prompting because we seek to measure top-of-mind brand-linked impressions associated with advertising. The concept of brand-linked impressions is a critical one. It is possible for consumers to easily remember particular creative elements of an advertisement but not be able to associate it with the brand. While such advertisements might help the category, they do not achieve the brand's objective. Memorable ads can achieve greater impact. Moreover, whatever makes the ad memorable must be linked to the brand, such that the consumer can not think about the ad without recalling the brand. We call the memorable creative element that's linked to the positive aspects of the brand a "creative magnifier." By linking an involving message with the brand, the brand-linked impression is locked into long-term memory with important positive associations. The consumer will draw upon these memories when brand interactions occur, such as just prior to purchase (leading them to select the brand) or during consumption (reinforcing the positive attributes and leading them to repeat purchase). Levels of brand-linked impression recall as a result of single ad
impression are generally low. When one considers all that competes for our attention, the low
absolute level of brand-linked impression recall is not at all surprising. Perhaps it is not all that
inconsistent with the percentage of us who remember which day lockers we have used at the gym
over the past week, the type of car we parked next to in a parking lot, or the airline seat number we
sat in last - each of which we may attempt to consciously remember.
So how do ads break through the clutter and make a brand-linked impression? While we don't expect
miracles (such as perfect brand-linked impression recall or having everyone rush out to purchase the
product the moment they see the ad), we do expect to see consistent positive effects from advertising
over time. The most successful advertisements will:
1. Be noticed (and remembered in connection with the brand).
2. Increase awareness for the brand.
3. Positively impact consumers' perceptions of the branded product or service.
4. Increase the likelihood that the consumer will purchase the brand.
These clear hallmarks of successful advertising can be directly quantified. The next section presents
the detailed findings for the Crest and Pepcid AC ads.
Measuring Effectiveness - how well the Branded Cursor performed.
Q. Was the ad noticed?
A. Yes, overwhelmingly. Awareness of the Branded cursor-enabled advertisement significantly out-
performed the branded banner ad (which scored 20% higher than the control). Overall, the total effect
of the cursor-enabled banner was a 222% increase in advertising awareness.
Advertising recall is important. Noticing the ad and associating it with the brand is a necessary
precursor to more fundamental advertising effects. By developing a strong association between the
brand name and the qualities emphasized in the creative, an effective advertising campaign has the
potential to influence brand choice when consumers are ready to make a purchase.
On an aided ad recall basis, the cursor-enabled creative was very successful in making a memorable
"Which of the following brands do you recall seeing advertised on the Web recently?"
Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control ** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group and branded banner We have found that while Web users are receptive to the concept of ad supported Web content, they are also adept at screening out irrelevant stimuli. To cut through the clutter, advertising must communicate the brand name and make its presence patently obvious. To achieve this objective through an exposure to a banner ad, effective creative executions accent the brand name or logo and deliver messages (text or image based) that can be quickly understood by the target audience. Most users only remember the most involving parts of an advertisement. This involving part of the advertisement is what we call the creative magnifier. Research has shown that for advertising to reach a peak level of effectiveness it must integrate the brand name and message into the creative magnifier. In the case of the Branded Cursor, the cursor itself becomes the creative magnifier. Since this magnifier is always present in the user's field of view, the effectiveness of the advertising is greatly enhanced. Web banner advertising has always presented a challenge to advertisers. Specifically, when creating a banner execution it is always a challenge to communicate a message and ensure that the banner is well branded. The Branded Cursor helps to defeat the challenge by bringing the branding aspects of the advertisement to the user through the cursor allowing for greater flexibility to communicate a message in the banner execution. Despite the positive aspects of the Branded Cursor, caution needs to be taken in the development of the cursors. As a result of the way in which the brand awareness is generated a potential for sponsor misattribution is created. This was specifically evident in the case of the Crest cursor that featured a smiling tooth with no mention of the brand name. This relies on the user looking at the banner execution to determine the sponsor of the cursor. In this instance there was a misattribution of the advertisement to Crest's main competitor Colgate who also received a significant lift in advertising awareness as a result of the cursor. The chart below illustrates this effect: Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control
** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group and branded banner
This point underscores the importance of the cursor being well branded for the sponsoring brand. Its
role as the creative magnifier is to create the opportunity to capture the consumer's attention and draw
it to the banner advertisement. Ensuring that this opportunity includes a brand identifier will help to
improve the effectiveness of the campaign overall.
Comparing the Branded Cursor to other media
To compare the effectiveness of the Branded Cursor to other forms of media, a comparison was
made using Millward Brown's proprietary FORCE score system. The average FORCE score is
calculated for each medium based on recall of advertising in that medium after a single exposure to
an ad. The FORCE score is a measure of the potential impact of the medium.
With television advertising the average FORCE score is 10, which means that one in ten viewers will
correctly recall an advertisement after their first exposure.
The FORCE score for the Branded Cursor shows it to be almost twice as effective as a Web banner
ad alone.
Comparative FORCE Scores

Q. Did the cursor-enabled banner raise awareness for the sponsored brands?

Yes, the Branded Cursor-enabled advertising banner was more effective than a simple ad banner
alone. Top of mind brand awareness increased by 39% on average. Research conducted by Millward
Brown and other companies has drawn an obvious conclusion: the degree of brand awareness and
familiarity is important. Keeping the brand salient in the consumer's mind is a strategy that is
imperative to long-term brand success. Consumers rarely select unfamiliar brands and brands that
register higher awareness levels are the brands that consumers remember when they are in the
purchase process. Advertising works to build familiarity with a brand and help to bridge the gap
between unknown unconsidered brand and known familiar brands.
The results illustrate the contribution that the advertising is making to increasing brand awareness. In
an unprompted situation when asked to list brands for the tested categories respondents exposed to
the Branded Cursor advertising were twice as likely to first mention the sponsoring brand than those
individuals exposed to a standard banner advertisement.
"Thinking about (category), can you please tell me what brands of (category) come to mind.
Please list as many as you can think of."

First Brand Mentioned
Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control * Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group ** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group and branded banner In addition to generating an impact on top-of-mind saliency for the evaluated brands, the cursor-enabled executions were also successful in lifting overall unaided brand awareness levels as is seen in the table below. This shift supports the findings observed with advertising awareness; the significant shifts in ad awareness are reflected in greater presence for the brand. This increased presence is a precursor to enabling brands to be considered as a valid choice amongst the consumer's perceived competitive set. Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control
** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group and branded banner
The Branded Cursor was also somewhat effective in generating increases in prompted brand
awareness, an especially difficult task considering the established nature of the tested categories.
Which of the following brands have you heard of?
Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control
* Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group
While the cursor was effective in increasing brand awareness, respondent familiarity with the tested
brands was not heavily impacted by the Branded Cursor. Not a surprise considering that both brands
tested come from well-established markets.
The cursor itself is not specifically designed to increase familiarity other than by increasing general
saliency for the brand.
Could you please rate your level of familiarity with the following brands?
Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control
Q. Did the cursor-enabled banner positively impact consumers perceptions of the sponsored brands?
A. Yes. The Branded Cursor-enabled banner advertisements resulted in a greater shift in overall
opinion in relation to a standard banner advertisement. The cursor-enabled advertisements were also
able to generate more positive brand impressions in a variety of areas.
Overall opinion of a brand is formed in many ways. The strongest influence on an individuals
perception of a brand is based on their past experiences. However, despite this strong influence from
past experience, advertising has the ability to contribute to the ongoing growth and evolution of brand
In the case of Pepcid AC, the cursor-enabled advertisement was successful in generating overall
positive feelings about the brand. On the other hand, while the Crest execution did exhibit a shift in
overall opinion, the shift is minor and directional in nature.
"Based on everything you know what is your overall opinion of brand? Would you say brand
Top 2 Box Score: Excellent, Very Good
Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control
** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group and branded banner
The Pepcid AC execution was more effective in shifting consumer perceptions of the brand. The
cursor execution significantly increased perceptions of the brand over the control cell across all of the
tested statements. There was also a significant shift in perceptions over a normal ad banner for the
majority of the statements asked in the study.
While not performing as well as the Pepcid AC advertisement, the cursor-enabled Crest ad banner
was effective in shifting consumer perceptions on key image statements. Specifically, the cursor ad
outperformed the branded banner ad on three key measures: "good for the whole family," "provides
the best cavity protection," and "works better than other brands."
Q. Did the cursor-enabled banner positively impact consumers intent to purchase the sponsored
brands? Did it affect clickthrough?
A. Yes. The Branded Cursor-enabled advertisement for Pepcid AC generated a significant lift in intent
to purchase and both executions received increased clickthroughs as a result of the Branded Cursor.
The Pepcid AC Branded Cursor-enabled ad banner increased the intention to purchase dramatically.
On the other hand, purchase intent for Crest remained relatively unchanged despite the presence of
the advertising and the Branded Cursor.
The lack of movement for Crest presents some key learning about how the Branded Cursor works.
The majority of the findings indicate that the Branded Cursor can increase the size of the audience
exposed to the advertising. The cursor does an outstanding job of generating awareness for the
advertising. It's important to note, however, that the cursor itself does not seek to communicate a
message or influence consumer perceptions of the brand.
The cursor is meant to bring more attention to the actual ad banner where the message is to be
communicated. Being aware of the role the cursor is playing in the advertising is imperative; it
underscores the importance of having a good ad banner creative in conjunction with the Branded
Cursor. In the case of the Crest campaign, the ad banner execution is somewhat weak in its ability to
generate an impact. The Crest cursor improves the brand saliency and ad awareness. However,
impact beyond these measures is the primary job of the banner execution, and these other measures
did not perform as strongly as they should.
"Which of the following best describes how likely you would be to purchase (brand)?"
Top Box Score: The only one, one of 2 or 3, one of
Control Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Control
** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. control group and branded banner
While the Web marketing industry is beginning to focus more on the branding impact of
advertisements, there still exist brands for which a direct marketing approach is important.
Q. Did the cursor-enabled banner affect clickthrough?
A. Yes. The Branded Cursor-enabled advertisements generated significant lifts in clickthroughs as a
result of the Branded Cursor. Within this research clickthrough was measured to provide an
evaluation of the impact that the Branded Cursor can have in a direct marketing campaign. It is
important to note that the advertisements evaluated in this research were both for consumer
packaged goods products, a category that most often employs branding style campaigns. The use of
the Branded Cursor for a direct marketing focused advertisement would most likely result in higher
clickthrough increases than those reported here. Despite the non-direct marketing nature of the
evaluated banner ads, both executions received significant increases in the numbers of clickthroughs.
The average increase in clickthrough was 97%.


Absolute Increase for Cursor-enabled over banner Cursor & Branded Banner Percent Increase Over Branded Banner Alone
** Significant at the 99% confidence level vs. branded banner
Top of Page
Copyright 2004, Millward Brown IntelliQuest


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