Bogus Banner Blindness Claims

Written on
Oct 6, 2011 
Natalie Drugan  |

ADOTAS – With the evolution of digital technology, advertisers continue to find innovative ways to engage and connect with consumers. Display advertising is one of the most popular forms of digital advertising. While display continues to prove its value, there are many critics who question its effectiveness and claim that it has a blinding effect.

I am first to admit that there are display ads that are worth ignoring; however, this holds true for any type of advertisement. There will always be advertisements that fall into the best and worst categories. Rather than discounting the display channel all together, we should be challenging the advertisements themselves.

To ensure banner ads are set up for success, the following questions should be asked:

What will they say? Key value offerings should be compelling and relevant to a target audience. The ads should communicate powerful brand-building messages.

How will they look? The creative should deliver innovative brand experiences that are attention-grabbing and pleasing to the eye. Eyesores are not welcome.

• Where will they be placed? Strategic and premium brand environments are imperative. Publisher sites can make or break advertisements based on their content, credibility and overall value.

How will they be communicated? Share of voice is incredibly important; advertisers should strive to have a strong, prominent voice/presence on a page so consumers can hear them.

How many times will they be seen? Repetition is key. Increased ad exposure improves ad recall.

What channels will accompany them? Banner ads can be used in conjunction with other ad formats and channels both online and offline to push consumers down the purchase funnel to a final action.

Beyond good advertising tactics, there are several studies that have proven that the pure presence of a display ad can have an effect on users, even from an emotional standpoint. This further validates the bogus banner blindness phenomenon. For example, an Online Publishers Association eye-tracking study found the following:

  • 90% of participants noticed OPA ad units in the first 10 seconds of being on a webpage;
  • 73% of participants who fixated on units after the first 10 seconds displayed a stronger emotional response to the advertising than to the rest of the webpage;
  • 96% of participants paid attention to OPA ad units while naturally surfing; and
  • 67% of participants returned to look at the OPA ad units after spending time elsewhere on the web page

According to the OPA president, “The findings show that OPA ad units are not only drawing attention back to the advertising, but are also generating significant interest and therefore are a very effective platform for brand marketers to deliver messages.”

While these results are extremely powerful, it is important to reemphasize the need for high quality, engaging ads that truly attract an audience. Advertisers should strive for strong connections, not just visibility.

The OPA findings also uncover another bogus theory: CTR is a good measurement for ad effectiveness. This historically low performing metric is often relied on as the sole indicator for ad effectiveness. A click does not determine an advertisement’s fate. More importantly, the lack of a click does not mean an ad has been ignored, similar to the banner blindness theory.

The ability to deliver an engaging and attractive brand-building experience is the true determinant of banner ad success. These types of experiences leave long, lasting impressions.

As the Market Research Manager at Centro, Natalie Drugan is responsible for implementing and leading Centro Academy Media Research and Insights, a research division of Centro, which helps shape the media industry by providing compelling research, thought-provoking insights and influential success stories to agencies and advertisers, helping them make strategic and informed decisions. Natalie has 10 years of experience in market research and marketing across verticals such as CPG, financial services and digital media. Natalie is also on the leadership team of the Centro Giving Tree, a committee dedicated to giving back to Chicago’s local community through non-profit partnerships.

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