How to combat banner blindness

Interruption can be annoying. Maybe that's why some of us don't like online ads. Yet when targeted correctly, online ads -- served up in the right time and place, to the right person -- help us save money, research products, update us on our favorite brands, and lead us to new ones we like.

A study last year found that as many as 43 percent of consumers ignore online display ads. Considering that display ads are the second-largest online marketing channel according to the IAB, it's necessary for marketers to figure out how to fight "banner blindness" and make those budget dollars pay off.

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Even Facebook isn't immune to banner blindness. A recent report from Webtrends highlighted the fact that the rates at which users clicking on Facebook ads designed to generate fans are starting to decline -- even as they become more expensive.

For your next banner campaign, keep these pointers in mind:

GIF is trash, use the Flash
Flash banners give you the ability to have 15 seconds of animation. Why not take that time to make it a mini-commercial about what you can do for your customers? At the same time, be sure not to use the technique purely for distraction; Flash banners need to convey your message effectively.

Remarketing
The ability to reconnect with someone who has once visited your business is a technology unique to the internet. Use banner space to target these past visitors who are already familiar with your brand. If someone has shown interest before, don't give up. The great thing about remarketing is that it is aimed at the most important target of an advertiser, its own audience. Remarketing helps consumers see banner ads that are more relevant to their interests so the more websites they visit which employ remarketing, the more relevant their banner ad experience will be.

Why you?
Provide the user with the knowledge they need to know that will help them decide to go with you. Tell them how you differ from the competition and highlight your advantages. Help your audience get to know you better.

Promotions
Give people what they want by including enticing promotions and offers. Bringing your ads to a higher click-through rate (CTR) than the industry average of .09 percent means placing a terrific offer into the banner. If you expect someone to click on the banner, you must give them a compelling reason. Think of Groupon: The company has enjoyed enormous success precisely because it forces advertisers to give the best possible offer to get new clients to buy their product or service, often at a loss to the advertiser. While 50 percent off is pushing it, what about 15 percent or 20 percent off? If you want a consumer to buy a product for the first time, you need to offer a great reason to click on the banner.

Artwork
If ad creative design is boring, you'll know it. There's actually evidence out there that traditional marketing imagery reduces the credibility and trustworthiness of a website. Mix it up to really stand out and capture attention.

Value of building brand awareness
How do banner display ads stack up against traditional media such as TV, radio, print, or billboards? Can someone watching TV click on a commercial? Not yet. The fact is, more and more people are fast forwarding through these very expensive minutes. Can someone driving in a car click on a radio ad or interact with a billboard at 45 mph? What about the value of print advertising, whether it is traditional mail delivered to your home, or newspapers and magazines? Much of this typically ends up in the trash, unread. These vehicles are popular because of the notion of inherent brand awareness. So the question is, why do the majority of companies undervalue the power of branding on the internet? Most people spend hours per day surfing the net, with banners loaded onto pages where the users are looking at personally selected content, with no ability to fast forward or remove a banner from a page. Since conversion results and other metrics can be tracked with internet advertising, brands often view ROI or CTR as the only criteria to consider. Just as with print, television, and outdoor advertising, internet campaigns provide brand-building qualities that can't be quantifiably measured. Both channels impact buying decisions and should be evaluated not only for their CTR but also for their over-arching brand awareness qualities.

In sum, don't be discouraged by statistics. Instead, accept the challenge of creating exciting banner ads that work better. When targeted correctly, banner ads are a very cost efficient way of linking you to your consumer. Advertisers with vision and creativity achieve great engagement and branding value by going beyond banner blindness and running banner campaigns with highly targeted and enticing content.

Dan Yomtobian is CEO and founder of Advertise.com.

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