How Advertisers Can Stay Relevant and Highly Visible in Today’s Crowded Ad World
Any Internet user would agree that there is certainly no shortage of ads online; in fact; most would probably say there are too many. But how effective are those millions of ads when it comes to driving engagement and revenue for advertisers?
Our 2013 research into poor ad response rates found that 14 percent of consumers recalled the last display ad they saw and the company or product it promoted; and only 2.8 percent of respondents to our survey stated that they thought the ad they saw was relevant to them.
As such; users have trained their eyes to ignore the bulk of traditional advertising as they browse online; meaning that all the money being spent on those ads is essentially being thrown out the window. Because of this phenomenon; known as banner blindness; advertisers are constantly looking for ways to set themselves apart from the crowd and actually capture consumer attention.
To illustrate some of the common pitfalls advertisers face when buying inventory across the publisher sphere; let’s dissect a hypothetical page layout and address the problematic areas that both publishers and advertisers can address to improve revenue.
THE WRONG WAY
Note the overwhelming number of ads; the standard top and margin banners and the medium box that we’ve seen time and again; in the same placements we’ve always seen them (and trained our eyes to avoid.) In an effort to maximize their advertising revenue (which; after all; is what keeps media properties up and running) publishers sometimes make the mistake of trying to use up every bit of space not taken by content for ads. But while the publisher is making some money from all that ad inventory; the user is faced with an extremely noisy page that makes it difficult to discern content from ads and is far too cluttered to make for an enjoyable or useful experience.
The fact that many of these ads are the same tired banner and box formats that we’ve seen (and ignored) for years; doesn’t help matters. These stale ad formats are also a major culprit behind banner blindness; consumers know what ads usually look like and where on a page they are most commonly found; so their eyes pass right over them.
Consumers will be less inclined to visit your site on a regular basis if the experience is unpleasant; and even less inclined to engage with; or even notice; ad content because of the way it is presented. So the dollars the publisher gets from a few extra bits of real estate can be cancelled out and more by lack of audience loyalty and engagement rates.
Lack of relevance is another glaring issue in our example. Note that none of the ads are related to the site’s content-travel; which is a huge red flag. Even with all the millions of dollars we as an industry spend on targeting technologies; we are failing to accomplish the one thing that is key to engagement-relevance to the user. As I noted above; only 2.8 percent of our study respondents thought that the last ad they saw was relevant to them. 2.8 percent! If you can’t see the correlation between less than three percent relevance and the measly 1 percent average engagement rate of display; then you’re not just banner blind; you’re totally blind!
Doing it Right
Let’s take a look at another hypothetical page layout that avoids those pitfalls in order to deliver a clean; user-friendly and relevant experience.
As you can immediately see; the page is much cleaner; the content is easily accessible and the placement of the single ad is unexpected; which draws the eye. One of the more fascinating aspects of banner blindness is the fact that consumers don’t even have to make a point to ignore ad content; their brains do it automatically. Don’t make it even easier by relying on the same old standbys.
Instead; explore more non-traditional formats and placements such as text overlays that link key words to relevant ads; or frame placements that utilize the white space on the margins of a page to present ad content in a new way. Native placements are also a great way of delivering relevant ad content in an attention-grabbing yet non-intrusive manner. Today’s consumers interact with online content differently; so why are we trying to reach them using the ad formats of 20 years ago?
You will also note that the content of the ad is relevant to the context of the page. Contextual relevance is not the only factor in improving engagement; but it is definitely important; as the content of the site visited is a key indicator of the user’s intent. Intent essentially means what a person is on a website to accomplish-entertainment; information gathering; shopping; etc.-which very often translates to that person’s intent to purchase an advertised product or service. Combining that insight with other intent indicators from other browsing behaviors including web searches; email list signups; etc. and using that holistic view of your consumers to target ads can do wonders for boosting relevance; engagement and overall revenues.
Advertisers spend millions of dollars on digital ads every year-creating them and making them beautiful; investing in data and targeting technologies; partnering with buying and bidding platforms-yet those millions might as well be thrown out the window if advertisers don’t also focus on optimizing the user experience. To stand out from competitors and capture attention amidst the clutter; advertisers must make users their first priority. This means breaking banner blindness with unique formats and ensuring relevance by delivering content based on intent.