Are visitors even clicking on your banner ads?

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If your company has spent money on buying website banner ads, you may be wondering whether the investment was truly worth it. Perhaps you didn’t get the return you’d expected….or maybe other B2B firms opted for them and you’re looking to do the same.

At first blush, it may seem that banner ads are the very things people loathe, or ignore.

But you may be surprised to learn that people don’t truly ignore them – at least not consciously. Apparently, the average person sees more than 1,700 banner ads per month.

Doing the math, you’ve probably seen hundreds of thousands of them since you first typed in “www…” in a browser.

Back in 1994, the click through rates on banners were as high as 78 percent, but now are closer to less than a tenth of one per cent.

That means one in 1,000 web surfers bother to click them – at least on purpose – and in some cases, the number is 10 times lower for smaller ads.

You could easier land a full house playing poker than have a customer click on a banner ad, or more statistically likely to complete Navy Seal training, reach the top of Mount Everest, or (if you’re a woman) more likely to give birth to twins.

It’s even more likely someone will survive a plan crash, than  click on a banner ad.

Also, a recent study found more than 198 million people are using adblockers, and advertisers are expected to lose over $21 billion in 2015, according to the report.

So why do so many companies still invest in banner ads, you ask, if the statistics look so daunting, and the number of clicks is so low?

Begin by thinking about the sheer numbers: according to comScore, over 5.3 trillion display ads were seen last year by US consumers, up by a trillion in 2009.

Despite the fact that so few of us bother to move our cursor to the banner ad, the astounding number of them means that even if a small percentage “click”, the return on the investment results are still astonishing.

Recent studies have shown that these ads help increase brand awareness by up to 63 percent, increase offline sales by as much as 43 percent and increase traffic to a site by up to 300 per cent.

Companies last year spent $120 billion on digital ads, according to  TechCrunch and eMarketer, in what experts are saying is the fastest growing sphere of advertising.

Why do banner ads work, then?

One reason the experts say is because banner ads are targeted to the surfer’s preferences. Between surfing, online searches, social media words, cookies, browser history, and a litany of other background computing algorithms, data is sent – or “shared” – to all other websites that are visited.

It’s all being meticulously compiled, redirected into a custom-made ad package that fits in an image box, at the side of the screen.

Still, if people aren’t in the mood to be “sold” to, their eyes might just glaze over. A new term has evolved, called banner blindness, describing just that: people know where the ads are, and, not wanting to be disturbed, subconsciously block out that pocket of the screen.

But that doesn’t seem to put a kink in the plans, particularly given the statistics.

Still, despite its success, the way of the banner might not be flying as high in the next couple of years.

Major sites such as Yahoo and BuzzFeed are eschewing banner ads – particularly for mobile devices– in favour of the next big thing in advertising that has corporate names subtly tucked in.

Just last month a report came out that said “native advertising” on mobile devices – that is, sponsored editorial or multimedia content – are expected to be used by half of brand and agency advertisers by 2017. In addition, budgets for the aforementioned ad platforms are expected to increase by 25 percent.

As use of mobile devices increase, the chances of someone clicking on a banner ad – that teeny box on the already-small screen – seem more and more remote.

So if your company wants to invest in banner ads, you may have a small window (or rectangular box) with which to grab your audience.

Flickr photo via user Buzz Farmers

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