There continues to be a great deal of discussion in the industry about developing more engaging online ad formats and content. Banner ads have less than a 1% click-through rate. More importantly, consumers don’t pay attention to banner ads – hence the term “banner blindness.” I’d argue that it’s neither the format nor the content that leads to this blindness and the subsequent ineffective communication of key brand messages; it’s simply that banner ads require people to pull their attention away from where they naturally focus: the content. If marketers want customers to remember their brands, remember their messages and take action, they need to reach them when they are paying attention.
Be Where People are Looking
A lot of creative brainpower has gone into tweaking, revamping and overhauling banner ads to generate more clicks – but the clicks just aren’t there. The reason these ads don’t make an impression is because they reach unreceptive viewers.
Publishers continue to try to “build a better banner” because it serves a bucket that performance-based ad agencies and advertisers need to fill. Results, no matter how paltry, can be measured by click-thoughs or video plays, but there is no way to effectively measure how that banner ad is impacting message and brand recall – things that actually influence buying decisions long-term.
Memorability is the new bottom line in online advertising, and if publishers and advertisers are serious about developing more effective advertising, they should focus on where people are looking. Here they could follow the example of online video ads. Most people would prefer to not have to watch an ad before viewing an online video, but a creative ad in an online video is more memorable because the user is already focused on that space – they are paying attention and are receptive to receiving information. Banner ads, by virtue of location, cannot provide that same level of engagement, interaction and message recall.
Performance-based brand advertising
Performance-based brand advertising impacts message recall and brand awareness while also increasing direct response rates and lead generation quality. Research findings from Professor Keith Niedermeyer at the Wharton School of Business state that simple, in-stream, interactive ads targeted to high-attention moments are ideal for performance-based brand advertising.
Targeting integrated placements (with content) based on users’ attention, receptivity and cognition provide greater value than changing banner formats. Marketers buying integrated placements experienced an engagement rate (the rate at which users interacted in some way with the ad) of 30%, compared with 3% for rich media and 0.15% for banner ads, according to Niedermeyer’s findings.
Messaging that is peripheral to content will never be effective, and experimenting with new banner formats won’t change that. The secret to effective advertising is reaching viewers when they are already paying attention.