I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about advertising on the internet. More specifically about how the economic downturn could signal a breaking point for banner advertising. So we know about banner blindness and dismal clickthrough/interaction rates, yet people keep buying up the stuff. Mainly it’s because it’s the closest thing the web has to do with scale. There are no other good ways to get your message in front of a lot of people (whether or not they look at it) that doesn’t take a lot more work (like PR/outreach).
With that said, I had another thought the other day: Maybe the answer is that advertisers need more variations on their creative. What I mean is, I think part of the banner blindness problem (and this is all speculation without any data behind it so take it with a grain of salt) is that we’re all trained to recognize when something doesn’t belong and, in the case of the web, to ignore it. Banners tend to be a different color, font and they move all around, add in the fact that they sit along the edges and they’re just too easy to quickly spot and dismiss. But once in awhile someone like Apple comes along and does some fancy custom unit where they pay attention to everything including getting the NYTimes.com typeface right. That kind of stuff must make more of an impact than your run of the mill banner, no matter how cool it might be. Right?
Of course, doing a whole bunch of custom units that match to both the look/feel of the site and the audiences mindset is a whole lot more expensive from a creative development perspective. But isn’t that kind of targeting what the web does best? If advertisers are so desperate for people to pay attention, maybe they should try a little harder.