Think for a second about your personal online experience. Can you remember the most recent banner ad you clicked on? Or the last banner ad you looked at? Not really? Well, you’re not the only one…
The research shows that in this day and age only 14% of people are able to recall the last display ad they saw, meaning that 86% of web users are subject to banner blindness.
What is Banner Blindness?
Banner blindness, also called banner noise, is a term in online advertising used to describe the tendency of an internet user to predict where the display ad would appear on the screen and scan right past it. The concept was first coined by Benway and Lane in 1998, after they conducted a web usability test in which test groups had to look for specific information on specific websites.
This test required the participants to click on relevant banners that would resemble popular display ads in some cases and would appear quite unusual in others. However, the image creation did not move the needle, as the experiment confirmed that users consciously or subconsciously ignored advertising banners or banner-like elements.
The major reason for this behaviour was probably that the subjects were assigned specific tasks. So they interacted with the parts of the websites where they hoped to find relevant information.
It appears that there are two navigation behaviors that bring about different levels of attention paid to ads. They are ‘goal directed searching’ and ‘undirected browsing’.
In goal-directed situations, users are seeking the specific information and pay little attention to the irrelevant content. Whereas in undirected browsing they don’t usually have a search goal in mind, what makes them more receptive and likely to click on display ads. No doubt, that banner noise occurs more often when users have a purpose for going online.
Sounds Like an Advertising Nightmare?
Well… Let’s look at the stats. When first banner ads were introduced by AT&T back in 1994, the click-through rate (CTR) stood at 44%. It was a hit! However, since then the number of ads has grown dramatically, while the average CTR took a nosedive, hitting only 2% in 1995 and consistently 0.6% in 2003.
Based on the latest report from Smart Insights, currently a hopeless 0.05% is the average display ad CTR across all formats – bringing only 5 clicks for every 10,000 impressions.
Banner blindness is our defense mechanism against information overload. Think about it. Every single day we see millions of ads in the street, on TV, or around the Internet. With limited attention spans and sensory overload, people mastered to selectively direct their interest only to the information that they search for.
For this reason, when banner ads were just starting to be displayed online, it was discovered that curiosity drives people to click on anything bright, shiny, or trustworthy. As time passed by, websites started to drown in ads and users have become more conscious, therefore learned to turn a blind eye on them.
What’s more, surfing behavior and the average amount of time people spend on websites has changed as well. This day, the vast majority of online pageviews last 1 or 2 seconds. Ouch.
We All Struggle
The problem of banner blindness isn’t just limited to advertisers. Even web designers are fighting a battle. Once users automatically choose which elements to perceive, they tend to blank out on the content that in any way is related to promotion every now and then.
Big banner-like images along with those in classic advertising spots, just like the header or the right column, receive especially little attention. While creating a website and planning available ad spaces, web designers should definitely take into account shapes and placements of images to avoid the effect of banner blindness.
It’s Time to Go Native
Simply, as time is changing, advertising is not standing still, it’s making a move. So, just think outside of the box and try something new. Why not seek out some good native traffic sources? Surely, native advertising would bring some light into the darkness.
Just look at these ads. Don’t they seem like an article you would click on? Yap. That’s right. We already know it – native advertisements are definitely a less intrusive way to go. They seamlessly blend in and actually don’t disrupt from the user experience. Designed well, native ads can be intriguing, informative and in fact build a brand or sell a product.
Let’s Sum it Up!
In today’s performance marketing landscape running a successful digital campaign is definitely a challenge. Because of banner blindness, it’s difficult to make web users convert with display ads. And, when so much work goes into making the design of the ad awesome, your audience deserves to see it.
These days, the biggest brands like Facebook are building their whole monetization strategies around native.