Before I answer, let me point to two worthwhile reads for some perspective on why some believe the future of advertising is integrated. The Future of Advertising will be Integrated, written by Mark Suster (@msuster) of GRP Partners here in Los Angeles, argues that ads that are integrated with content in authentic ways are significantly more effective. The second is a post he used to support his hypothesis written by Jakob Nielsen entitled “Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings”. Mr. Nielsen used eye tracking to demonstrate how little our attention is drawn to anything on a web page other than the content we are interested in reading.
The advantage of eye tracking is that no one can dispute the findings, since it is a bio-physiological measure. The eye focuses on what the eye wants to focus on. However, the impact of exposure is not absolute. Naturally, its perfectly rational to assume that the longer someone is exposed to an object, advertisement, piece of the content, the greater the likelihood of it impacting consumer behavior. From this, many posit the opposite must hold true, that limited exposure has little to no impact. In fact, this isn’t actually the case. The cognitive impact of exposure isn’t always conscious and when combined with context & relevancy, the effect, while subtle, can be more than fleeting.
With that in mind, one stat in Suster’s post really stood out to me – 998 out of 1000 don’t click on your ad! We all know CTRs are horrifically low, but when spelled out that way, it seems crazy. Crazy that billions of dollars are still being spent on miserably low click-through! But, there is opportunity. “Banner Blindness” showed that the attention is mostly drawn to content, with little attention focused on advertising. But, there is some attention being paid to online ads and the trick is to understand what impact that exposure has on consumer behavior.
The online market has long been conditioned to focus on click behaviors. Back when CTRs were in the 70s (yes, 700 clicks out of 1000), there really was no other metric necessary to measure the impact of an ad. Since the web was effectively competing against the goliaths of television and print for ad dollars, the ability to show live, census-level measurement was a core differentiator for online advertising. Why focus on “opportunity to see” an ad when you knew exactly what consumers were doing with the content in front of them? However, it’s time to put more emphasis on ” opportunities to see” online ads. Otherwise, online advertising won’t capture its full potential. There is real value in those unclicked 998 impressions. The challenge is for marketers and creatives to shift some of their focus away from optimizing for clicks to design that will drive branding awareness, recall and persuasion.