Have you thought about the impact banner ad blindness has on your bottom line? If you haven’t yet, then you definitely should because it may be causing you to waste a lot of your ad spending. Here are a few banner blindness statistics based on an Infolinks study in 2013:
- Less than 14% of web users notice banner ads;
- 2.8% of users think the ad they are shown is relevant;
- 35% of people don’t click on a single banner ad in any given five-month period.
In this article, we’ll cover the most important aspects of banner blindness to help you understand and identify it. Most importantly, we’ll include tips on how you can best avoid it and maximize the impact of your ads.
Banner Blindness Definition: What Is Banner Blindness?
So, what is banner blindness? From the term itself, banner blindness refers to a web user’s non-response to a banner advertisement. It’s akin to how a person can tune out background noise. Coined in 1998, this term was used to describe the results of an eye tracking experiment on a website. Even in the early years of the internet, users were already ignoring ads because they thought they were useless and annoying.
Now that we have a general meaning of banner blindness, let’s explore the potential causes of banner blindness and how we can potentially remedy the issue.
What Causes Banner Ad Blindness?
With less than 14% of users even noticing a banner ad, the issue of banner blindness is a pervasive one. And this isn’t something that just happened overnight.
The culprit? In actuality, there’s no single reason for this. Instead, there are multiple causes behind banner blindness. If you want to be better equipped to address this phenomenon, read all the information presented in this section. For your convenience, we have divided the identified factors into two general categories: human behavior and banner ad features.
How someone interacts with a site can contribute to banner blindness. Through their actions, people ultimately decide the impact of your banner ad. If they view the banner ad as useful and engaging, then they are more likely to pay attention to what it says and perhaps even perform your desired CTA. Therefore, knowing what your target audience is thinking will help you avoid banner blindness. Below are the biggest human behavior-related reasons that contribute to this occurrence.
Banner blindness is strongly linked with brand familiarity. If you’ve just purchased from a shop, are you likely to click on the ad linking back to it just five minutes later? Perhaps out of curiosity, you would, but for many people, banner blindness sets in. After all, they already know what to expect from that store. However, the impacts of brand familiarity doesn’t just apply to interactions that end in a purchase.
If someone’s already aware of the brand, the banner ad is more likely to reinforce their pre-existing ideas of it. A user who has negative feelings towards the brand definitely won’t be interested, and for the avid follower, the ad most likely won’t present any new information to them.
A user visits a site for a certain purpose. Normally, it’s to find information. If the banner ad doesn’t directly support this goal, banner blindness may take over. For example, someone who’s looking into different types of health insurance may ignore an ad about getting a discount on the latest sports car.
In some ways, we can even see banner ads as inherently against user intent. Its presence indicates promoting a product or service, and since most users are on a site to gather information not purchase goods, they’re going to ignore any banner they encounter.
Can you remember the last time you saw a messy workspace? Chances are you don’t even remember what was on the desk just that it was messy. Even if there’s a limited-edition item there that’s worth thousands of dollars, you most likely didn’t even notice it. The same thing happens with banner blindness.
Users are not going to assess each banner ad individually. So, if there are a lot of ads on the site, users will interpret it as just one giant web of clutter and ignore it all. They may even experience sensory overload, which can make their mind block the input (the clutter of ads) as a response.
Banner Ad Features
User perception isn’t the only thing that can cause banner blindness. The banner ad itself can cause it too. That’s why it’s so important to put a lot of thought and research into what you put in an ad. Every feature can attract or deter your prospects from learning more about your offer.
However, this doesn’t mean that there’s always something wrong with the ad itself. Sometimes, the surrounding circumstances related to the banner can make it harder for you to get to the intended audience. On top of the various user aspects we’ve discussed, these factors below may further increase banner blindness.
With television, ads are separate from the content. That makes it easy for users to focus on the ad, so banner blindness can’t happen. However, this isn’t the case for banner ads. This is because the ad is sharing space with the content of the page. And usually, it’s limited to a small section of the window.
With layouts and placements being practically identically across different pages and sites, users already know where to avoid banners. Regardless of user priority, there’s always competition that heavily favors website content. In order for a banner to succeed, users have to shift their focus away from the main content to a small ad located somewhere on the screen.
For many users, they perceive a banner ad as not useful, causing banner blindness to set in because they refuse to scan the banner copy. For a banner to have usefulness, we're referring to the utility of the information that the banner contains. It follows, then, that any information presented in the banner should be easy to understand and relevant.
If what’s on the ad doesn’t relate to what’s on the site, banner blindness tends to happen. Viewers may respond negatively to the ad and even actively avoid it.
Additionally, congruence isn’t only important for messaging but also design. Many advertisers think that standing out is a fool-proof move. After all, it can help grab the attention of the site user. However, using color schemes that deviate from what is used on the web page breaks the uniformity of the visual experience and often contributes to banner blindness.
Types of Banner Ad Blindness
Below, we summarized the most common banner blindness examples in digital marketing:
- Banner design blindness: The user recognizes the design normally associated with banners, so they already know what to ignore.
- Content banner blindness: In this case, the cause is due to the content not grabbing the user’s attention.
- Inattentional banner blindness: Here, the user is so focused on a different task that they tune out everything not related to it.
- Overload banner blindness: The number of ads gets overwhelming, so much so that the user just ignores all of them.
- Habituation banner blindness: In this case, ignoring ads has become so much of a habit that they no longer notice banner ads.
Banner Blindness Research: How Does Banner Blindness Impact Advertisers and Publishers?
There are a lot of statistics related to banner blindness, and all of them tell one story: banner blindness is very real. Here are a few numbers from an eye tracking whitepaper to help paint a better picture:
- 22% of users were annoyed by irrelevant ads;
- 86% of users experience some form of banner blindness;
- The banner ad CTR is around 0.1%;
- 99.9% of banner ads don’t generate engagement.
Because of banner blindness, advertisers who use them as part of their marketing campaigns may be seeing a smaller revenue from their efforts. As a result, they may decide not to use banner ads anymore. If legitimate advertisers drop banner ads altogether, spam-like ads may take over in its space.
How to Avoid Ad Fatigue and Banner Blindness
Imagine spending a lot of time and money on an ad, only to find out that most of your target users aren’t looking at it. From the previous sections, you now know about the potential causes and impact of banner blindness on advertisers. The next (and perhaps more important) step would be to understand how to overcome banner blindness.
To manage expectations, let us just say this: the challenge at hand is essentially reversing a blindspot that has been developing for decades. So even though you may reduce some banner blindness, don’t expect to get the same results you would see on social media ads or email campaigns.
Tip #1: Don’t Disrupt the User Experience
User intent plays the largest part in why someone visits a specific website. When you look something up on a search engine, you choose a website from the results that you think will give you the best information.
Chances are your target audience has been searching the web for a while now. This means that there’s some level of expectation on what a proper website should be like. Therefore, if your ad disrupts their experience on the site, ad blindness is more likely to set in.
Tip #2: Be Mindful of How You Use Animation
We know it sounds counterproductive because moving objects are inherently attention grabbing; however, more animation in your graphics may cause banner blindness. If the transitions and movements are too fast, the user will have to focus to understand the message, causing them to ignore the ad altogether.
This doesn’t mean that static ads are a cure-all for banner blindness. Movements are still in! After all, videos are still generally effective in many forms of media, but everything’s best in moderation. It’s all about finding that sweet spot when incorporating animation. Alternatively, why not try out interactive banners to improve user engagement?
Tip #3: Don’t Try to Stand Out
Do you remember how we talked about the value of user intent in preventing banner blindness? Your ad must be aligned with why the user is on the page, so deviating from it may cause your banner to be ignored altogether. What does this mean for you as an advertiser? It means that casting the widest net may just lose you money.
Instead, make sure that your banner always feels relevant and personalized to the user. If it adheres to the user intent, you can avoid banner blindness. Viewers are more likely to at least scan your ad if it can help them fulfill their intent.
Tip #4: Test Non-Conventional Banner Sizes and Locations
Because of how much everyone interacts with web pages, we already have a pretty good idea of where the banner will be. And if you’re not interested in someone selling to you? You’ll do the online equivalent of putting on headphones while looking at items in a store: avoid the general direction of the banner.
That’s why banner blindness has become second nature for users. People already know what they look like and where they will be. So, to mix things up, why not try out other placements and sizes? This will prevent users from inadvertently skipping over your content.
Tip #5: Tell Them the Benefit
What’s in it for the user? Prevent banner blindness by selling them the benefit of interacting with the ad. Depending on what you’re promoting, it can be several things, like:
- A discount;
- A freebie;
- A chance to get the latest releases.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that will create a sense of urgency; in actuality, the most important part is to demonstrate what you’ll deliver if they click the ad.
Tip #6: Don’t Forget the Call to Action
Let’s say that you’re offering a discount on clothes. What’s next? Site users hate being deviated from their original intent, so they won’t click a link that may take them to a different page unless they have to. Even if you beat banner blindness, you still have to tell them what to do next. If it means clicking the ad, then make that clear.
However, clicking isn’t the only CTA option that you have. If you want them to call a certain number, you can include the phone number on the ad. The same goes for any coupon code that you may want them to apply.
Tip #7: Be Honest with Your Audience
Don’t promise something that the brand can’t deliver. This will have a lasting effect on how your target audience perceives your business, losing not only trust in the ad but also the brand. Will the opportunity to get a 99% discount on your products get their attention? Definitely! But if they click the ad and the fine print limits the availability of the promotion, they may develop banner blindness for your brand forever. So, if you promise the world, you should deliver.
Tip #8: Create a Brand Recall
They say that for your brand to be remembered, the target audience must encounter it seven times. Of course, the number 7 isn’t a hard and fast rule. What’s important to remember here is that seeing the ad one time may not do the trick. You should retarget the banner to the same audience a few more times before shifting strategies.
This is a great approach if your target market isn’t familiar with your brand yet. Try to avoid those that already have a negative perception of the brand because the banner ad may just intensify those feelings.
Why does banner blindness happen?
Banner blindness occurs for one, or more, of the following reasons:
- The user has developed a blind spot for banner ads;
- The information on the banner ad isn’t relevant to the user;
- The user is focused on something else on the web page;
- The banner itself has a generic design, is placed in a predictable location and/or has an animation that’s already associated with ads;
- There are too many banners on the site.
What factors contribute to banner blindness?
Various factors result in banner blindness, including:
- Relevance of the ad;
- Intent of the user who’s visiting the web page;
- Number of ads on the page;
- Placement of the ad;
- Incongruent banner ad to the content and aesthetic of the web page.
What is contextual targeting and personalization, and how does it help combat banner blindness?
Contextual targeting and personalization display your banner ad when it may be most relevant to the user. For example, someone who’s reading about marathons may be more likely to respond positively to an ad about running shoes.
It helps address banner blindness by creating contextual relevance between the content and the ad. The banner seems less like an advertisement because it doesn’t create a break in the user experience.
What are the most effective guidelines and practices for creating banner ads to overcome banner blindness?
Here are a few things to remember when creating banner ads:
- Don’t focus too much on standing out;
- Make sure that your ads are mobile-friendly;
- Have a clear call to action;
- Don’t disrupt the user experience;
- Enclose your banner ad in a clearly defined frame;
- Make your message clear and easy to understand;
- Don’t create a false sense of urgency.
What other ad formats can be used to combat banner blindness?
Users don’t respond well to banner ads with a lot of movement. If you’re trying to find that tricky balance, we suggest trying out interactive banners. This encourages the user to participate and engage, thus increasing the likelihood that they’d do your desired action.
Conclusion: Is It Truly Possible to Create Engagement Ads to Get Around Banner Blindness?
Definitely! Use the how-to section to get started and create your own strategies based on the results that you’re getting. But like any good marketer, don’t put all your metaphorical eggs in one basket. After all, blending in the background can be a good thing! This is how native ads work. They only appear when relevant and match the form and function of the site.
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