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BizReport : Research archives : August 27, 2007

Engaged Internet users oblivious to banner ads

If it looks like an ad, flashes like an ad or is disguised as an ad your site visitors probably won’t notice it, according to a new report on the old problem of banner blindness. Consequently, if an ad doesn't look like an ad and tricks the user in to clicking through, it is ranked as a top annoyance.

by Helen Leggatt

What’s an e-marketer to do? Blatant banner advertising is ignored and covert attempts deemed deceitful and potentially damaging to a brand’s reputation.

New findings have backed up previous observations that most Internet users searching websites for specific information, or who are engaged with viewing or reading online content, do not notice banner ads. In fact, the more a banner ad looks like a banner ad, the less likely it is to be noticed or interacted with, found recent research by usability expert Jakob Nielsen.

Exceptions to this behavior, he found, occurred when banner ads contained cleavage, plain text, faces or when the ad was disguised as content. All four of these design elements proved effective at attracting eyeballs.

However, disguising ads as content has long been a controversial creative treatment, and ads that “trick” the site visitor into clicking through are unpopular with Internet users. While they might attract large click-through numbers the consequences of the deception do the advertising brand no favors in the long run.

In fact, ads that try to trick users into clicking through were ranked as the third most annoying advertising tactic used (Alertbox December, 2004).

Pops-up in front of your window 95%
Loads slowly 94%
Tries to trick you into clicking on it 94%
Does not have a "Close" button 93%
Covers what you are trying to see 93%
Doesn't say what it is for 92%
Moves content around 92%
Occupies most of the page 90%
Blinks on and off 87%
Floats across the screen 79%
Automatically plays sound 79%

Tags: banner ads, eyetracking, online advertising

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