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I heard recently that the average click-through-rate of a banner ad is less than the average failure rate of birth control.

I stumbled across this eye tracking study showing how people look at web content. Whether a quick scanning, partial reading, or thorough reading, the eyes rarely took in the ads. The study calls this “banner blindness”.

The banner blindness phenomenon extends beyond banner ads to advertising in general. Even though ads are more pervasive than ever, it is easier than ever to ignore them.

Banner blindness raises the importance of evolving beyond paid media alone. Here’s a handy chart from Forrester on the different complementary roles of paid media, owned media, and earned media.

Forrester goes on to say:

“Your paid media is not dead, but it is evolving into a catalyst. Many people are predicting the end of paid media. However that prediction may be premature as no other type of media can guarantee the immediacy and scale that paid media can. However, paid media is shifting away from the foundation and evolving into a catalyst that is needed at key periods to drive more engagement”.

When we think of paid media as a catalyst rather than as the foundation, it forces us to raise our game. There is no longer a captive audience. Our communication can’t afford to be “blah blah blah”. As marketers our goal in everything should be to create marketing worth sharing at the start.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)

BROWSE SIMILAR CARTOONS IN: advertising, social media

11 Comments

  1. Charles Cousins says:

    Good one Tom! I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the years. I believe there is a great opportunity to utilize traditional forms of media (I’ve got a long-standing history with print) in non-traditional ways, tapping into people’s curiosity and sense of adventure. I kept thinking of books I read as a kid where you would find something – a piece of paper, treasure map, ring – that would take you on a great adventure. There is a great opportunity to combine traditional, online and augmented media in fun and engaging ways that would build an emotional connection with you as you discovered new aspects of the adventure. Sometimes it is nice to start the journey in a classic manner, and to find hints and connections that way as well, that draw you online or elsewhere. I feel museums do a good job of this with the old fashioned audio tour. Take the concept and extrapolate from it all kinds of approaches, but up the creative ante. Kind of a cross between a pirate map and high tech.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

  2. Geofrey Biggins says:

    its funny as your advertising must work as i am here reading your website. I think advertising has to get clever in how it does it not just shout that you need whatever product it is. It must show me what it does or intrigue me to find out more. failing that other ways must be found, for example biscuit manufacturers might put a tiny tick-box hidden on the page that says please tick this box if you don’t want us to track you to your home and steal your cookies so you have to buy more.

  3. Nate Garhart says:

    I like it, Tom, but I’m not sure I completely agree. I’ve got limited-to-no relevant experience with advertising (only consumer-side (that is, as a consumer) and legal review experience), but can’t banner ads (and billboards, and those physical banners being dragged by airplanes at the beach), while ineffective on their own, be part of a much larger campaign that benefits from the very small impressions created by these views that call to mind the more substantive parts of the campaign? So even if I’m nearly blind to the banner, so long as I truly don’t see it at all, the advertiser may get much of the value it sought, whether I click through or not.

  4. DSprogis says:

    End to paid media? I don’t think so but I am hoping for a serious reduction in it. We have all become so very ad-fatigued that we ignore it all. Yes, as consumers, we all have an interest in learning about what’s available. I see this as an opportunity for creative and for targeting.

    All one need do is watch the Superbowl to see what is possible from a creative point-of-view. Why can’t all ads be so good that people want to watch them? Consumers are indicating that they should all be “that good”. Netflix and Hulu are evidence that people will buy their way out of ads but I’ll bet those same people watch the Superbowl ads. Networks have to reduce their inventory and become selective in whom they sell advertising to.

    Targeting has got to become better and it will. It is getting perfected on the Internet and will migrate to television as televisions become “smarter” either by set-top device or built-in. A few highly targeted ads has much more value than a basket of generic ads. In fact, I believe the basket of ads is damaging and drives people like me to ad-free subscriber lines.

    Someone’s got to take the brave first step …

  5. Carl G-L says:

    I don’t think paid media will dissapear. Instead, I think marketer will need to have a more targeted message and audience.

    CTR is not so much a campaign efficacity measure. Nowaday you see more and more companies focussing on the quality of clic rather then aiming at quantity. It is fairly easy to get good CTR, getting a good conversion rate on these clics is way more difficult…

  6. Raleigh Kung says:

    Very good points. I believe that the shift from paid media to other channels is there as well.

    It’s interesting how marketing has also now shifted more to ‘sharing’ rather than ‘selling’. Some examples of viral campaigns were created for the sole intent of being shared and spread word of mouth, and even some doing so without any real aim of selling.

    The next question I would wonder then: ‘Is sharing now the goal of marketing?’

  7. mike says:

    Most websites are following the two-column format with ads and other social media content. With the rise of tablets it’s easy for a reader to pinch and zoom in so as to avoid seeing the second column. As a web developer who does sites with ads in the second column I’ve quickly adapted by moving the ads into the middle of the content. This has Provence to be much better because readers continue to at least see the ads before continuing to read – like a short commercial break from the content. Then when they finish reading they scroll back up to the ads and click through. I also capitalize on “fast swipers” or fat finger folk. Either way the ads are seen and they get clicked….even if by accident.

  8. Akshay Talwar says:

    Hi tom,

    Couldnt agree more with the concept of banner blindness. Seems the audience’s subconscious has evolved and formed a blocking mechanism to protect its limited focus from the massive onslaught of advertising/information!

    This selective attention phenomenon may be resulting from that animal survival instinct in all of us. the only difference is that the definition of survival has changed !

    But as you rightly mentioned, Advertising/information has become quite intrusive and seems to force itself in every nook and cranny from bil-boards to to restrooms.People are trying to not interact with this information and survive (mentally !)….

    Survive by ignoring ads on roads and driving safe without distraction,,,,,
    survive by not getting delayed/distracted by advertising/information especially when its about things/people who are important to the person…To this point you can actually think of endless examples….you are trying to watch a movie…..your emotions are at stake where you may lose your focus thanks to loud adverstsing in between….your mind will ignore these ads and try and protect that frame of mind for you……In a shopping mall you are filtering thousands of messages that seem…intrusive and forced !
    having said that things are looking up as we see clutter free products and services for customers paired with really simple advertising/information sharing or rather just sinnply engagement at times,,,,,but we marketers/advertisers need to challenge our brains and come up with simple solutions to information in this otherwise complex/cluttered marketplace!

  9. Mike says:

    I had an afterthought after my post above. Last weekend I drove from Olympia, WA to Seattle, WA along I-5 and of course there were billboards all along the way. And some of them did get my attention. Which ones were they? The ones that were either animated or had appealing images. Tom’s examples above hit the nail on head for marketers with boring ads.

    It’s not to say all billboards or banner ads are ignored, only boring ones.

    Think about when you watch a TV show or a YouTube video and something pops up at the bottom of the screen. Do you glance at it because something new is coming into your field of vision or do you ignore it. I’d wager you look at it because it is moving. But even provactive ads get our attention too, especially when we are driving. Kodak had these 3-D billboards about 20 years ago and people couldn’t help but look at them.

    So Tom is correct by his cartoon. A boring billboard or banner ad with a boring picture of a car, drink or burger will most likely be ignored. But that far right one in his cartoon where you just see the jeans might get your attention…if the model is say wearing a teeny-weenie yellow-polka-dot bikini!

  10. Melissa Macaulay Federico says:

    So true. It’s all about the “R” word. Relevance. And we don’t achieve relevance without targeting, and we can’t target without analysis of the best possible data.

    The good news is we’re getting batter at all of the above. I don’t think any of our channels are necessarily going away, we’re just going to use them better.

    Thanks for another outstanding post.

  11. tomfishburne says:

    Hi all,

    Great feedback this week. Sorry it took me a while to pick a winner. I was traveling and got behind. This cartoon print goes to David Sprogis. I love the insight that all ads should be so good that people want to watch them. Exactly…

    -Tom

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