July 29, 2008

New Chart: Fending Off 'Banner Blindness' - Make Some Simple Changes to Your Advertising

SUMMARY: 'Banner blindness' will slash the impact of just
about any email and online ad over time. But the good news is that you can lift the effectiveness of your advertising by making a few rather simple changes. Three key takeaways from Sherpa eyetracking research.
Chart: Eyetracking Images Show Impact of Banner Blindness View Chart Online

Click here to see larger, printable version of this chart

This week’s chart of the week comes from a favorite eyetracking study done in conjunction with last year’s Email Benchmark Research – although the lessons apply to just about any type of online advertising. The three images capture how an audience viewed an email newsletter over three successive issues. Attention to the content remains steady, but there’s a profound difference in how the ad space on the left is viewed.

In the first issue, almost 80% of newsletter readers scan some part of the ad in the left-hand column. By the second issue, that number is cut in half, and then halved again in the third viewing – bottoming out at 20%. It’s a dramatic illustration of ‘banner blindness’ – the process by which we are able to identify page geography by what’s familiar vs. strange and what’s relevant or not.

The bad news is that ‘banner blindness’ can happen quickly – and applies to just about any ad space. For example, it’s not entirely clear whether video is an exception to banner blindness or, if it is, how consistently.

The good news is that this capability to rapidly map what we see provides opportunities for increasing attention.

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Change the landscape
The most powerful way to combat banner blindness is probably to vary the page template itself. By moving landmarks, you encourage the eye to conduct a more complete scan of the page. This is easiest in the email world, where creating and scheduling similar, but not identical, templates won’t send the Web team into paroxysms.

2. Change the look and feel of ads
If you can’t change the position of ads, think about changing ad sizes or the way they look. In our study, for instance, we swapped in a text list where a graphical ad had been positioned and saw a jump in attention. The eye tracks changes to a familiar landscape.

3. Increase ad rotation
The easiest way to combat blindness is to change ads frequently. For publishers, that’s easy. That’s not the case with sponsored placements or in-house advertising; these can sit static for long periods.

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