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Banner ads don’t work

April 29, 2008

From MediaPost:

The study found that while an ad placed above the fold is visible to 100% of site visitors, only about 60% of them actually see it. At best, below-the-fold units are visible to roughly 70% of viewers, but only about a quarter of them actually see the ads. The ratios continue to trend downward as the ad units move from center placements to columns and spots on the far left side of the page.

I have some thoughts on why people ‘don’t see’ banner ads. For a long time, the only goal of a banner ad was to get people to click it. To press it. Banner ads were the ‘pushy salesguy’ of the marketing tool box. Click me!!!! Buy me!!!! Touch me!!!!

They were sold as clickable, direct marketing things. They were never sold as brand ads that simply ask: look at me, if you’re interested. (Indeed, early banner ads were sold based on clicks.)

Think about it: imagine if bus shelter ads told you to look at them all day. We might avoid taking the bus! People don’t like their sales message to be too pushy. And the reality is that, for most of their lives, banner ads have been really pushy.

So we’ve learned to ignore them completely. We’ve turned off the ability to see them. We’ve known about it for a while: it’s been called Banner Blindness and it’s real.

It’s a long uphill battle to fixing it. But we must fix it, because banner ads aren’t going away. They are the one thing that monetizes web content. Until a better idea comes along, people will sit through ads to get content. Google’s Adwords helps, because those ads are more relevant.

But we can fix banner ads. It starts with telling, not selling. And perhaps even telling people not to click.
Get radical, and help change the category perception. Then, maybe they’ll work harder.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2008 6:26 pm

    You bring up an interesting theory about the root cause of banner blindness: the pushy salesguy is a great analogy to the overt, blinky CTAs that populated the web years ago (and, to some extent, still do).

  2. May 9, 2008 7:11 pm

    That’s pretty much what I was thinking off.

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