Advertising Digital Publishing
5 mins read

Banner ads are only ruining your content, here’s how

Print moved into the digital sphere in the early 2000s, and publishers took the advertising monetization model with them during the transition. Regardless of the size and stature of their publications, media owners continued to stuff their web pages with ads. They were doing so hoping that this way they would encourage enough click-throughs to remain an attractive proposition to advertisers.

At the time, display advertising worked like a charm. Banner ads were HUGE at the beginning of the century. They were cheap and effective, so many publishers didn’t question whether or not they should be used: they were the norm, they were what was expected and therefore worth investing in.

The general belief was: the more banners you put on your website, the more money you’d earn from traffic. It was a simple equation. Because it worked, it was also kind of hard to dispute.

Back in the early 2000s, the average banner CTR (Click Through Rate) score was much higher than it was today, so this line of reasoning wasn’t really that far off. With such fantastic performances, publishers across the board continued to trust display advertising more and more, until one day it all came crumbling down.

The fall of display advertising

Even though banner ads aren’t officially dead – yet – their prognosis today is looking a whole lot less rosy.

According to the latest survey conducted by Vieo Design, people are fed up with digital advertising. Statistics also claim that only one-quarter of the entire digital ad spend ever reaches its actual targets. Pop-ups have become too intrusive, remarketing campaigns too creepy, and autoplaying videos have become beyond embarrassing, especially to those people who come into contact with them in crowded places.

Today’s Internet users can hardly read a news article without scrolling past a dozen ads and accidentally clicking on one of them. At a time when the user experience is paramount, if you’re a publisher, you can’t afford to ignore your audience’s irritation with the whole system.

There’s another reason you should be concerned too: your readers might hate them, but your advertisers will soon realize that the KPIs they’re benchmarking against aren’t particularly favorable either. At the Digital Media Europeconference in Copenhagen this year, Teads’ Christian Griesbach pointed out that as industry standard an ad is considered ‘viewed’ if more than 50% of the advertisement is in sight for two seconds. How is this value for money for anyone?

If you want to survive and continue to thrive in the digital space, you’ll need to learn how to adapt to the new landscape, and the new breed of consumer. They’re discerning, demanding and not afraid to wield the strongest ad-blocking systems known to man, given half the chance

The new & improved content consumer

The relationship between media and advertisements is constantly changing. With every new generation, old rules have to be revisited, reconsidered, or just flagged as ineffective. The whole process is iterative: just because something once worked doesn’t mean that it will continue to do so, or even that it should.

Change can’t be postponed forever, and a lack of awareness about genuine ad performance isn’t an adequate excuse for static either. Ignorance – or acceptance – about the actual effectiveness of long-standing metrics will only hurt the publisher. On your head be it.

To take an example: Millennials. They’re challenging the market group to satisfy – in almost any sector. They are the first generation to grow up with smartphones, tablets, and laptops in their hands. Since day one, these so-called ‘digital natives’ have been given access to the Internet, which in turn has shaped how they reason. The way they find, consume, and act on information (especially ads) is completely different from past generations, so why should we assume that ad approaches more suited to the Baby Boomers will work for them? Spoiler? We shouldn’t.

If publishers want Millennials to recognize their brand, they need to think beyond basic sponsored ads. More than 400 million of today’s Internet users have some sort of an ad-blocking device installed in their browsers to prevent publishers from bombarding them with annoying ads. Forrester’s report suggests that 38 percent of U.S. adults who use the Internet have installed an ad-blocker, and 50 percent claim to actively avoid ads on websites, which basically means that the majority of today’s Internet users are going out of their way to protect themselves from unwanted material.

Is advertising over? Is there a new way to monetize traffic and content?

Even though there are reports that claim that digital advertising as we know it is coming to an end, we believe it’s just changing.

It’s not that people hate advertisements, they don’t.

When they’re done well, they spark the same kind of conversations that any other great content does. In the UK, the annual Christmas advertising campaign from retailer John Lewis always arrives with great anticipation and has become something of an odd national institution. This year’s Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick sparked international discussion and reportedly boosted sales by 31 percent upon its release.

So, no, it’s not ads that are the problem. What people hate are uninspiring and poorly targeted promo material that tries to steal their focus at the wrong time and keeps them from consuming what they came to consume in the first place.

Instead of interrupting experiences, smart brands should try to build upon them and provide additional value to everyone who invests their time and focus on the publisher’s pages. To take another thought from Tead’s Christian Griesback, “the future of advertising is conversational”.

In 2018, a lot of big media outlets have recognized that ads are content and, if the content is good enough, people will be open to consume what you’re offering. After all, switching the focus to the content itself has given birth to three new business models. Native advertisingmemberships, and subscriptions all of which are taking the publishing industry by storm.

Modern Internet users recognize quality above everything else. If they want to engage their readers, publishers need to create content that’s relevant, valuable, and non-intrusive. Banner ads typically fail on all three counts.

There’s a huge potential for advertising that isn’t a banner ad. The industry is changing and new formats are starting to show more promise. Over 70 percent of digital video and over 80 percent of display ads are forecasted to be bought through automated channels this year, according to eMarketer. Programmatic advertising is no longer a silo or a distinct media channel—it’s simply how brands are buying ads

Publishers will need to meet users where they are, instead of forcing people to come to them.

Nobody wants to be associated with messages that aren’t in line with their overall consumer values and purpose. There’s a safety component there and also an authenticity component. Publishers need their messages alongside content that strategically makes sense—content that fits. As Christian Griesbach said: “The future of advertising is conversational.” Personalized content is key and that’s why display advertising needs to go through a complete makeover.

by Goran Mirković

Republished with kind permission of Content Insights, the next generation content analytics solution that translates complex editorial data into actionable insights.

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