What You Think You Know about Advertising on the Web Is Probably Wrong: Part Two

April 28th, 2014 by Brandi

online-advertisingIn part two of a series, we further explore Tony Haile’s article at Time.com, “What You Think You Know about the Web Is Wrong.” Here we examine the effectiveness of online advertising, with lessons for how tech B2B marketers can use better design and better content to reach their audience.

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As discussed in Part One of this blog, Haile thinks that the “Attention Web” is a new way to focus advertising based on a user’s attraction to valuable content and design. But first, he debunks several myths of online advertising.

Myth 3: Native advertising is the savior of publishing

With media companies desperate for new revenue streams and looking for ways to capture audience attention more thoughtfully, native advertising has recently been the talk of the town.

With native advertising, companies create original content and place it on specific news sites in a format that looks and feels like editorial content, because they want their message communicated in a way that is non-disruptive. But does this really work? With regular editorial content, two-thirds of people engage with it for more than 15 seconds – but with native ad content, only one-third engage more than 15 seconds. You see the same thing with page-scrolling behavior: with typical editorial content, 71% of readers scrolled down. But with native content, only 24% of people scrolled down the page at, all based on Chartbeat’s research.

That being said, native advertising isn’t all doom and gloom, some sites have worked hard to ensure the native advertising experience is consistent with what visitors come to their site for. Gizmodo does this really well and they have seen their native advertising perform as well as their normal content as a result.

Myth 4: Banner ads don’t work

The next myth discusses why banner ads are NOT dead. If you listen to the ‘experts,’ click-through rates on banner ads are now averaging less than 0.1% and you’ll hear the words banner blindness discussed at length. But the truth is a bit more complicated…

Research has consistently shown the importance of great ad creative in getting a visitor to see and remember a brand. What’s less well known is the scientific consensus based on studies by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Chartbeat that a second key factor is the amount of time a visitor spends actively looking at the page when the ad is in view. Someone looking at the page for 20 seconds while an ad is there is 20-30% more likely to recall that ad afterwards.

So, for banner ads to be effective, the answer is simple. You have to deliver great creative and then place the ad near it for a long enough period for the viewer to truly see it. The challenge for banner ads is that traditional advertising heuristics demand that ads be placed on the parts of the page that capture the least attention, not the most.

Here’s the deal: 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold. That leaderboard at the top of the page? People scroll right past that and spend their time where the content is.

So while the Attention Web may just seem like a way to structure Web advertising based in consumer behavior, it does indeed have the potential to make a big impact. It’s not just the publishers of quality content who win in the Attention Web, it’s all of us. When sites are built to capture attention, any friction, any bad design or eye-roll-inducing advertorials that might cause a visitor to spend a second less on the site is bad for business.

This means better design and a better experience for everyone. A web where quality makes money and great design is rewarded? That’s something worth paying attention to.

How would the Attention Web change how you structure your next web advertising campaign?

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