Wednesday June 22nd || by Rachel Zalta

Do banner ad designs, including impressive size, bright colors, animation, etc., get more clicks?

In the literature, there are two main views on banner ads:

  1. The distinctiveness view: Banner ads are distinct from their surroundings, and therefore will automatically attract people’s attention.
  2. The banner blindness view: People have developed a blindness mechanism to automatically avoid such ads, and therefore these designs are ignored even if their content is consistent with people’s needs.

So who’s right?

Sun, Lim, & Peng (2013) proposed an evolutionary perspective in which banner ads have initially gotten a lot of clicks, but because of the negative experience that users have had when interacting with banner ads — such as feelings of irritation, distraction and intrusiveness — users have developed an altogether blindness to them.

Have you ever taken a huge bite out of a delicious looking apple, only to realize that the apple was gross and rotten inside? Is it true that it took a while until you decided to give apples another try? Heck, now that you’ve thought of that again, you probably won’t touch an apple for another week!

This phenomenon is similar to a user’s experience with banner ads. If you’ve clicked on one and had a bad experience with where it led you, it probably caused you to keep away from it – like the bad taste from a rotten apple. You probably haven’t developed a blindness for apples, but if this negative apple experience would repeat itself many times, I would imagine you’d stop eating apples altogether.

What does this mean for us?

To start, we should avoid using banner ad designs in our landing pages and for our images on the campaign level — because they are automatically ignored by most users. But the broader lesson is that we always need to be thinking about how our discovery campaigns can provide a positive experience for the user — pre-click and post-click — matching them with relevant and useful content, leaving them with a better taste in their mouth so that they are encouraged to click and discover something new again in the future.

Source: Sun, Y., Lim, K. H., & Peng, J. Z. (2013). Solving the distinctiveness-blindness debate: a unified model for understanding banner processing. JAIS, 14(2), 49-71.

Rachel Zalta

Rachel Zalta is a member of the Content Strategy team at Taboola. Her role involves psychological research into the performance of content across the web, including insight-driven analysis through A/B testing, data tracking, and other methods. Rachel holds a master’s degree in Social and Organizational Psychology from Bar-Ilan University, and has previously conducted research for the IDF Intelligence Corps and for companies such as ClickTale and Q-XT.