Commentary

Beat Banner Blindness: Break The Standard

Getting .2% of something isn't a lot.

Perhaps if we're talking about Warren Buffet's investment portfolio, it would be a nice sum of money, but as this is the average Click-Through Rate (CTR) for most online banner ads, it's not so great — especially when it’s coming from an industry which promises accountability.

When you compare it with the 9% CTRs that banner ads averaged in the mid-1990s, it's clear that user behavior has changed.

After exposing Internet users to millions of irrelevant ads since the mid-’90s, the industry has created a new disease called banner blindness. Having your agency make the ad larger or a forced start video isn't going to change the end result, though it does slow the process.

Online advertising needs to break standard banner advertising and find something different:

1.     Ads Based On Interest, Not Interruption

Too many online ads interrupt our Web experience instead of enhancing it with interesting content. Perhaps this comes from TV advertising, which originally interrupted our viewing experience.

The reason TV ads could be intrusive in the pre-DVR era is because there were no opportunities to engage with viewers, a captive audience.

Today on the Net, we don't need programmed breaks. That's why ads need to interest and engage users if we want our ads to drive them into a conversion funnel. Getting a user to pay attention to your brand is getting harder, but that doesn’t mean pushing more ads is going to get a better response.

2.     Less Is More

In the race to improve the ROI of online advertising campaigns, advertisers and agencies have pressured ad platforms and publishers to reduce their ad rates. To make up for lower revenue per ad, publishers have simply added more ads. So why are we surprised when so many sites are almost as bright and noisy as Times Square?

Advertisers need to offer publishers higher ad rates in exchange for the promise of running fewer distracting ads on the Web pages where their campaigns run.  As counterintuitive as paying more might sound, higher paying ads on Web pages and apps with less clutter and noise might actually result in a better ROI. Consumers will be more inclined to click and engage — particularly if the creative is strong and the advertising content is of interest.

3. Combining 'Big Data' With 'Big Creative'

The hottest term in online advertising today is Big Data. I am excited by the potential of using data to improve ad targeting to increase campaign ROI, but in the midst of all the hype surrounding it, we forgot we're a creative industry. I'd love to see more energy in our industry focused on uncovering that big creative idea for display advertising – digital's Big Creative'.

Too many of the creative executions in online advertising are repurposed from other media, namely TV and print. Combining a better user experience, with all of the strong data we have on hand, will allow for a solution for all parties involved.

One way to enhance this experience instead of interrupting it is by running native ads.

Native advertising is any form of advertising which is innate, pertaining to or characteristic of the content around which it appears. Instead of screaming Buy Me Now, native ads project the look and tone of the content around which they appear to encourage users to engage and ultimately progress down the purchase funnel. A lot of people associate native ads with byline style content. I believe these ads are a certain type of native, but not all native ads need to lead to content-driven pages.

With so many consumers complaining about the intrusiveness and interruption of advertising, native ads provide a creative way to interest and engage them that enhances their Web browsing experience. Plus, native ads outperform online banners by a factor of five to 15; they deliver ROI for advertisers.

From billboards to radio to print to TV, the advertising industry has spent the last century establishing standards only to break them. To cure banner blindness, we now need to break the standard in online advertising.

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