If you’re reading an article online, especially on a newspaper website, there will be a block of colour at the top of the page with an advertisement on in. This block – usually 468 x 60 pixels but now more frequently 728 x 90 pixels – is called a ‘banner advert’, and they are the bedrock of Internet advertising. And there’s a lot of them: in the UK alone, banner adverts were ‘served’ onto a web page over 54 billion times in the last month.
The more banners there are, and the more familiar we are with them, the more we ignore them. According to research by Harris Interactive published this month, 46% of users say they ignore banner ads entirely. A mere 1% say they find banners useful in making purchasing decisions.
If you contrast this with how people respond to adverts placed in traditional media: 37% say they are influenced by TV ads, and 17% say that Newspaper ads help them decide what to buy.
This lack of interest amoung consumers in banner advertising is also being played out in the relative ‘cost’ of them. Banner Advertising is traditionally charged as a cost per thousand impressions (CPM), and rates have fallen by two thirds in the last 12 months.
This drop in cost comes at a time when advertisers are shifting their budget towards more accountable online marketing channels search as search and affiliates.
So what’s wrong with banners? Why don’t we like them, and why do we take less and less interest them?
Well first of all it might be a longevity issue. Banner adverts have been around almost since the start of the Internet – a good 15 years or so. It has been the de facto form of online advertising, and therefore the one that most of us have been exposed to. So maybe we’ve seen so many of them now we are no longer affected by them. We are ‘banner blind’.
And then there is the size issue. Browsers – the software that you use to look at websites – used to show a much smaller space on a website. But now most of us use browsers over 1000 pixels wide, so banners are looking increasingly small.
There is also the regularity of them. OK, some new sizes have come along: apart from the sizes above, there are buttons (120 x 60 or 120 x 120); ‘skyscrapers’ that run down the side of pages (usually 120 x 60 or 160 x 60); or MPUs that sit in the middle of pages (250 x 250). But because we have also quickly become familiar with these other sizes, we’ve become blind to them too. It’s easy to look past them in a way that you can’t look past a full page ad in the paper.
And there’s a placement issue. Publishers want to place editorial all best places on a page, and banner adverts – whatever their size – are relegated to the margins where they’re easy to ignore.
So what is the alternative for advertisers? Well there’s no doubt that online video offers some ideas. Publishers are in many cases able to charge money for ‘pre-roll’ adverts on online video. These are adverts that must been viewed before the user can see the actual content.
And there are other ‘creative’ advertising options. The overlay – when an advert expands over the editorial you’re trying to read – is an effective if intrusive way of getting a readers’ attention.
The issue is: if we all want to continue to get free editorial and content, then publishers will have to ‘sell’ our eyeballs to advertisers. And if we stop responding to – or even seeing- those adverts, then they will need to find other ways to raise money. And that might mean charging us to read their website.
Do you buy banner adverts to promote your Sitebuilder website? Do you sell banners on your website? Are you turned off by banners, or do you think they’re a necessary part of the Internet? Leave us a comment below.