The Elephant on the Screen

I like advertising. I especially like having the choice of viewing it or not. Something which is increasingly rare when using the internet. Having grown up watching television as my main source of adverts, I am accustomed to a medium which throws random products at you between programmes, and, to be honest, pretty unbothered by the whole thing. So why do I get so incensed over being forced to look at adverts on the internet? Especially ones that are often tailored just for me. And I think therein lies the problem.

No longer am I an anonymous consumer, soaking up and filtering all the rubbish out. I am now the focus of the advert. The target, the victim… I feel like shouting at the screen ‘you don’t know me!’ or ‘you can’t put me in a box!’ etc..

It made me wonder if it’s something I have done to myself. I’m a big fan of the works of Philip K Dick, of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and films such as the heavily underrated ‘THX 1138’. So perhaps I have just conditioned myself to a paranoia towards big brother? The idea somebody is watching me, collecting information on my behaviour, using it for their evil ends. It’s entirely possible.

Or perhaps it’s just that most advertising on the internet is rubbish? There are of course exceptions when it surpises me with its creativity or even the rare occasion when it makes me interested in a product. (although, to be fair, I’m struggling to remember an example of either of these happening recently).

I’m trying to look at a page and the banners are trying to sell me a washing machine (ironically because I just bought a washing machine). Or maybe they are trying to sell me a children’s book as I recently bought my friend’s child one. To be honest, they could be trying to sell me something I really want and I still probably wouldn’t click through. I’m far more likely to just search for it myself. I know there are ad blockers and programs to get around these things, but apart from my own little world it makes me question the motivation of the companies placing these adverts more than my own motivation to ignore them.

Estimates on the average click through rate from banner adverts range between 0.8 and 2.1%. These seem remarkably high to me. This infographic created by Prestige Marketing explains some of the reasons behind why people may have clicked through, along with some demographics of who is more likely to.

So am I wrong? Are they actually a useful tool within marketing or is the money best off being spent elsewhere? Personally I see them as a bit of a pointless tool which lazily allows you to brand your campaign as ‘multi-channel’, perhaps just tainted by my personal feelings into thinking that they are ineffective and generally annoying.

In an attempt to prove myself wrong I did some research and found this list on Digital Buzz which has some great case studies of innovative banner advertising.

Either way, both good and bad banner advertising should be a motivation for us all to be more inventive in what we do with a medium when advertising to customers.

However, I’m still not convinced it’s a powerful channel for influencing people right now. What do you think? Am I missing a trick, am I in the minority with my thinking? I’m eager to be proved wrong. How effective is banner advertising?
Lawrence

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