Banner Ads Are Dead. Here’s What Killed It

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In 1994, a man named Joe McCambley created a worldwide innovation. He had the idea to include an advertisement on a website for his client, At&T. This innocuous creation eventually evolved into the banner ads that are now ubiquitous with websites.

Moving into the early 2000’s, banner ads were a big thing. Almost all websites sported a banner ad of some kind. There were gifs, autoplay video ads, and flash ads too. It’s touted as the best and most modern way to advertise to internet users.

However, nowadays banner ads are no longer celebrated. Not only it has lost it’s effectiveness, banner ads are now seen as a nuisance, a hindrance, and even something that brands did not want to be associated with. Therefore after 25 years of banner ads, marketing experts are making it official. Banner ads are dead.

And it’s no surprise actually. In fact to the layman user, they might be thinking “what took you so long to come to that conclusion?” The fact of the matter is that no sane user is clicking on banner ads anymore.

Here are some statistics regarding banner ads;

  • 30% of users find banner ads distracting, and something to avoid. Source.
  • The current average click through rate (CTR) of banner ads are 0.01%. Source.
  • 92% of online ads are not even noticed. Source.

Had enough statistics? Well here are some pictures just to drive the point home.

According to Solve Media, the average user is 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad.
You are also 87 times more likely to apply to Harvard and get accepted than click on a banner ad.
And finally, you are 279 times more likely to scale the summit of Mt Everest rather than click on a banner ad.

Get the picture now? That’s how ineffective banner ads are.

What Killed Banner Ads?

We know now that banner ads are dead, how about we discuss what killed banner ads.

But there weren’t any singular reason that caused banner ads’ demise though. It’s more of a combination of factors that in the long run, led to it’s slow death.

And here are some of the popular reasons for it’s death.

#1 Banner Ads Are Obstructive

Look at how big and disruptive this banner ad is in the New York Times website.

The number one reason banner ads are dead is simple.

Because the public wants them dead. Why they wanted them dead though? Because banner ads are obstructive.

A majority of the users go on the internet with a purpose. They want to read the news, they want to do their shopping, they want to do research.

But banner ads are seriously hampering those efforts. Thanks to the size of banner ads, most of them takes up huge chunk of space in a website, which caused the users to resent them.

In fact, over time, a majority of users have developed a condition called banner blindness.

What this means is that the users have learned where a banner is typically placed in a website, and they have learned to ignore it completely.

Nielsen Norman Group ran a study on banner blindness and employed an eye tracker to see where users are looking, and here are the results;

Nielsen Norman Group ran an eyetracking study that showed just how severe banner blindness is in most users.

As you can see, users have learned how to avoid banner ads completely. And even worse for banner ads, users are not doing this consciously.

This means that they are not actively trying to avoid seeing the banner ads, instead they have been conditioned to subconsciously avoid areas that typically has banner ads.

Therefore, this is what started the doom of banner ads.

#2 The Rise Of Smart Phones

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Smartphones changed our way of life.

And one of the aspects it changed the most is how we surf the internet.

People have shifted away from using the internet on their desktops and instead are using their phones more.

Why is this bad for banner ads? Because banner ads live on the desktop view of a website.

As we have discussed in the first point, banner ads are large and obstructive. On a smartphone, the screens are smaller. Which means that all the elements in a website are already fighting for space to be shown in the mobile version.

That also means that there is simply no space for banner ads.

But that doesn’t mean that the marketers didn’t try to promote banner ads on mobile.

They tried, and they tried hard. They created mobile versions of banner ads, which are smaller, but big enough to be noticed on a smartphone screen.

Unfortunately for banner ads, this didn’t work either. Why? Because they found out that banner blindness is particularly high on mobile.

Yes, banner blindness carried over to mobile as well, and it’s even worse.

#3 Banner Ads Hurts Your Brand

Let’s do an imagination exercise.

Imagine you’re scrolling through a website. While scrolling and digesting content from the website, you accidentally clicked on a banner ad. The browser immediately takes you away from the website and to another  How would you feel?

Annoyed right? Maybe even frustrated? Perhaps even anger?

That’s how your users feel as well when they accidentally clicked on a banner ad on your website.

According to a study done by Retale in 2016, 60% of clicks on banner ads are accidental. They even claimed that accidental clicks caused annoyance for 68% of users, 45% claimed accidental banner clicks caused frustration for them, and 22% even claimed that they got angry when they accidentally clicked on a banner ad.

Needless to say, these are emotions that you don’t want associated with your website or your brand.

It’s proven that the heavy handed usage of banner ads doesn’t work, and causes users to avoid your brands.

#4 The Rise Of Native Ads

And finally but certainly not least, is the rise of native ads.

In fact, if you ask most experts what killed banner ads, they’d say that the rise of native ads is the main reason.

Don’t know what are native ads? Don’t worry, we’ll enlighten you.

Basically native ads are ads that don’t look like ads. They look like they belong in the website as content, when they are actually ads.

Here are some examples;

At first glance, this might seem like just another editorial post from Forbes. But in actuality, it is a native ad from Fidelity Voice.
Here’s another example of a well placed native ad in The Atlantic.

As you can see from the examples, native ads are created with the idea that it will seamlessly integrate with the content.

Advantages Of Native Ads

But how is it different from banner ads? Ads are still ads right?

You might think so, but let’s discuss the advantages of native ads.

#i Offers Control For Publishers

Unlike banner ads, native ads are shown only to people who are actually interested.

The reason for this is that native ads are not shown everywhere on the site. The very idea of native ads are advertisements that do not seem out of place in the website. Hence, the ads will only be placed in content that is relevant.

For example, let’s say you are looking for a way to alleviate a headache, and you find this article about home remedies to cure your headache.

While browsing through the content, you might see an advertisement on aspirins somewhere on the website.

This type of advertisement is proven to be more effective as it actually helps the user solve the problem they’re facing.

#ii They’re Not Intrusive

Remember when we discussed the reason for the death of banner ads? One of the main reasons are the fact that banner ads are intrusive and obstructive.

But native ads are designed to not be intrusive. Look at the examples we’ve provided, and you can see that native ads integrate with the content seamlessly.

This means that the user won’t feel like ads are being forced on them.

Hence, native ads create a win win situation for everyone. The publishers won’t be forced to put something out of place on their website, the marketers enjoy better CTR statistics, and the users can enjoy content without obstructions.

#iii Higher Chance Of Being Shared

Let’s face it. With traditional banner ads, no one in their right minds will share it with anyone else.

But with native ads, they actually have a chance of being shared. Especially if the ads were very creatively and allows the user to engage with it.

Take for example Snapchat ads. Multiple big companies have leveraged their geo filters to create geo filters for the users that increase their brand recognition.

These filters have a high chance of going viral and shared with the users of Snapchat.

Conclusion

So in conclusion, as the experts have surmised, banner ads are truly dead. The future of online marketing is now native ads, at least until it too starts getting obsolete. Therefore if you want to gain an edge in your blog, you’d do well to utilize native ads as soon as possible.

But at the same time, don’t forget that the field of online marketing is a very volatile and flexible field. This means that anything and everything can change at a moment’s notice. So don’t get too pigeonholed in one strategy, and keep your mind open.

If you want to be a successful blogger, keep yourself flexible.

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