At high school one certain way to get noticed is to dress differently. To dye your hair a crazy colour, or to get a facial piercing, or a prominent tattoo.
Online, for as long as I remember, advertisers have followed the same principle. To get noticed they’ve animated ads, made them expand unexpectedly across the screen, added animation, video, and sound.
So it seems counterintuitive to say that approach is wrong. After all, surely the louder you are, the greater the impact you’ll make?
But here’s a funny thing. All the evidence suggests that making ads stand out has the complete opposite effect to the one intended. In short: making ads easy to spot makes them easy to ignore.
Here’s the master of usability, Jakob Nielsen, on why rich media ads in standard formats are failing in one short and devastating statement: “Users almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement.”
This isn’t just opinion, it’s based on years of extensive eye-tracking research.Why? Well, the simple fact is people are usually visiting a page to view the publisher’s content. They know what they want, and they know how to find it. The brain is a sophisticated instrument. Ads that announce themselves to the world are discounted, just like air conditioning systems get screened out as background noise. People know what content looks like, and they know what ads look like.
And here’s something else Nielsen found: “The more an ad looks like a native site component, the more users will look at it.”
This is why we developed the Respond call to action button.
The Respond button doesn’t look like a standard ad. No, instead, it looks like something that might be useful. And because it’s contextually relevant, it usually is useful.
The Respond button is defiantly simple. It doesn’t change colour, or display video, or make a sound. It doesn’t move around the page, or activate itself when you hover over it. Nope. It just displays a compelling message based on the content of the page you’re reading that you can choose to act on.
Reading a car review? Click the button to see the brochure. New spa just opened? Click the button to get a voucher. New movie showing tonight? Click the button to view the trailer.
Instead of force feeding people with variations on the c1994 banner ad (and charging advertisers for ‘impressions’ that ironically fail to make an impression), we trust people to make their own minds up about which advertisers they would like to know more about.
After all, it’s usually the quiet kids in the corner that change the world.