ADOTAS — The average consumer is more likely to summit Mount Everest, complete Navy SEAL training or survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad, according to some industry reports. We all know that banner blindness is an industry plague. Consumers are more likely to train themselves to ignore banner ads on the top of a publisher’s website than they are to train for a marathon. Point taken. But that doesn’t mean that digital advertising is dead. It just means that marketers have to be more creative about the way that they deliver ads.
There are ways to beat banner blindness, and they don’t require any kind of extreme physical activity. In fact, the easiest route is to simply ignore what you’ve learned. If you’ve learned that running a leaderboard along the top of a page and running an LREC on the right rail are the best placements, IGNORE THAT. Why? Well, because people have trained themselves to ignore standard placements. Consumers have learned that content in those places is going to be advertising that isn’t relevant to their intent, and so they don’t even bother to glance at it anymore.
If you want your ads to actually drive results, you have to look beyond predictable ad placement. That isn’t to say you should slap a huge interstitial right over the top of featured content. I am merely suggesting that you find logical, respectful real estate to run contextually relevant advertising. It’s hardly revolutionary, but it will make a real difference for advertisers, publishers and consumers. Advertisers stand to benefit from better placement by capturing more entertained eyeballs and truly attracting the consumers they are trying to message. Publishers will benefit because consumers will be less annoyed by bad ads and advertisers will be pleased with higher response rates. Consumers will appreciate a more creative approach and are more likely to engage with ads that are presented in new and creative ways.
Marketers that are looking for innovative ways to serve digital ads should begin by thinking in-stream. In-stream ads should be less about pushing a product and more about providing some kind of compelling content that offers consumers something helpful. For instance, a grocer might think about crafting recipes and serving these as branded content on a publisher partner’s site. The branded message provides a consumer with useful reading. For example, Proctor & Gamble’s branded site P&G Everyday serves up delicious recipes and in between suggested meals gives readers the option to clip digital coupons for relevant items such as Bounty Paper towels. Moms and Dads always appreciate ideas on how to feed their families. The content can connect to the product that the brand is selling, the way that paper towels go with a messy BBQ dinner. It is a win-win-win situation. Consumers get free entertaining or useful content, while advertisers get engaged eyeballs, and publishers please their advertisers. Highly targeted intent-based ads delivered in non-traditional channels can deliver new revenue opportunities for publishers and advertisers, helping to overcome a consumer’s banner blindness.
Another creative way to use media is to put unused white (or black) space to work. Publishers should think about the entire page and try to imagine how they can make use of the holes for advertising partners. Publishers can capitalize on the expanding width of widescreen monitors by auto-detecting when a consumer’s browser window is wider than their website. In this instance a publisher could run an ad on the outer edge of the computer screen, fixed in position to generate unique engagement. Publishers should work with their advertising partners to figure out creative ways to use the full real estate of the site.
Another route to get consumers, who have trained themselves to ignore ads to pay attention, is to use “polite” overlays — overlays that don’t block featured content, and don’t require publisher site redesigns to incorporate. This kind of ad allows consumers to interact only when they want to, and prevents site visitors from being bombarded with unwanted messaging. Many of the new rich media units only expand when the user interacts with them. A brand could create a video game on a sports publisher’s site that is relevant to the current sporting season. This approach could become higher impact because it is creating a scenario in which the ad is “on demand.” This can drive more qualified interactions since the user is choosing to play the game instead of having it forced upon them.
There is not one exact approach that works best to overcome banner blindness. It is more important for brands to be able to think creatively and try to go beyond traditional media buys. Advertisers that can beat predictable placement are well poised to capture a consumer’s attention and in turn will see higher response rates.