With only 1 in 1,000 people clicking through on display ads, it's no wonder that banner blindness is a serious uphill battle for advertisers.
The truth is that web users are jaded, frustrated, and downright annoyed with display ads that offer text, image, and maybe a Flash animation to attempt to grab attention.
So what does it take to overcome banner blindness? What kinds of ads do people pay attention to and — dare we say — love?
Here are 5 aspects of successful display ads that overcome banner blindness.
Audiences are more likely to notice and interact with ads that are relevant. Audience targeting is the obvious way, but with cloud-based advertising, display ads can be quickly updated with content and messaging that is meaningful to your audience.
When would this be useful? In the midst of the financial crisis in 2011, Charles Schwab quickly updated their display ads to address consumer concerns. Their responsiveness further solidified their expertise and resulted in a 3x increase in interaction rate and 63% increase in CTR.
If they hadn't updated the campaign, the ads would have advertised Schwab's new mobile product. It would have been interesting, but consumers were more worried about other things at that point.
If you ask a user to click, to leave what they're currently doing to go to your brand's website — chances are that they won't. It's simply too big of a commitment.
But what if you ask them to interact with your brand directly in the ad unit itself? This is much more reasonable to ask and much more likely to result in engagement.
Good ads are as interactive as the web itself. It's not just about passively being fed information. It's about giving the user an active role in the experience.
Give the user something to click on, something to explore. A slideshow, video, white paper to download, a newsfeed from Facebook, real-time tweets, Pinterest photos, etc — all within an ad.
The goal is to encourage user to explore and learn about your product, not necessarily to force them to your own website in order to do that.
Look through the content that's currently on your landing pages, social media, your own website, and figure out how to optimize it for a smaller ad unit to bring that brand experience to users via paid media.
3. Visual Cues
The most frustrating thing for users? Surprises from display ads. Not the kind that's delightful, but the kind that's intrusive.
You know the kind. They're the ads that surprise you with a page takeover while you're reading interesting content. The ads with music that automatically starts playing when the video in the ad loads and clashes with the music you're listening to. You might even have to go through each browser tab to figure out where the ad is so you can shut the music off.
These ads disrupt a pleasant user experience and tax consumers for accessing the content they really want to see.
To avoid this, interactive ads should always behave as expected. Build in visual cues, such as tabs and scroll bars, to show that interacting with the ad won't result in being offloaded to another browser page.
This may increase your time-on-unit and interaction rate. And the click-throughs that you do get will be more likely to result in conversion because those are people who actually want to learn more about your product and consciously chose to click-through.
Since trends and consumer sentiments are constantly changing, it's important to see iteration as a constant factor rather than an exception.
By A/B testing your ads and learning from each campaign, you will fine-tune what works for your audience and product. This is the best way to optimize your display advertising and overcome banner blindness: build upon what works and get rid of what doesn't.
Here are some factors to optimize in your display ads:
- Video versus SWF animation overlay
- Live Twitter feed versus Facebook feed versus static messaging
- In-ad videos versus clicking through to reach content
- Media buy
- Ad Networks
Partnering with publishers to create a more integrated ad experience can bolster results. Native ads are one way to do this.
Native ads aren't distracting because they match the aesthetic of a website, so users are less likely to tune out. They are typically content-rich and integrate video, social media, or even a site’s own content right into the ad, which provides ample opportunities for each publisher to offer a unique ad product to advertisers.
The best ads hardly look like ads at all. Instead, they operate more like mini-websites that are full of content. Brands can pull in current content from their own homepages and social media sites, and bring this content into display ads all over the web via paid media publishing.
For example, if your brand sells fresh packaged salads, you could offer salad recipes, soup and salad combinations, health tips, and advice about how to shop at your local farmer's market.