Monday, September 10, 2007

Online Banner Blindness

Online marketing presents marketers with a real wealth of data and info about what performs and what doesn't. A vast industry has grown up around analysis of online data - this industry is disproportionate in size compared to the amount spent in the channel but the reason is the ability of marketing organisations to "flex" campaigns in real time - hence the need for more analysis.

Jakob Nielsen is considered by many to be a guru when it comes to analysing web sites and their usability and in a recent study, his company turned their attention to online banner ads to try and define the key characteristics of a successful campaign. His conclusions?

"Users rarely look at display advertisements on websites. Of the four design elements that do attract a few ad fixations, one is unethical and reduces the value of advertising networks."

The unethical element that works is making your ad look like native content - i.e. trying to "con" the user into believing the ad is really native content. Sounds a bit like PR doesn't it....

If you can artificially persuade users to click your ads (that seems to be the metric people look at a lot) then the metric itself becomes a waste of time. What does click through mean when you're getting bad clicks. Better to stick with real "end of line metrics" at the end of the day.

I recommend a quick read of his article that can be found here.

So my conclusion - online ads are valuable when actioned. Advertisers can use tricks (some dirty) to persuade people to click on the ads but it's not always going to work out in the long run. Therefore, be cautious when looking at metrics such as click through rates - they can be artificially inflated using some clever formatting and a picture of a naked woman.

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