Banner Blindness

Banner blindness was first coined by Benway and Lane of Rice University in a 1998 study on website usability. The study looked at external ad banners and internal navigational ad banners; and found that users skipped over the ads when scrolling through a page and that the traditional method of making large, flashy ads did little to impact interaction by a web user. I should also note that there were only six participants in this study and it was done 17 years ago. If marketers are aware of such an impact, why are so few ads being seen by humans? You'd think that we would have engineered a way for ads to seem more relevant than the web content on a page.

I responded to a Twitter survey earlier today and one of the questions asked if I had seen a tweet or ad about Batman v. Superman, and I hadn't, even though I use Twitter on multiple devices. In fact, I really do have a hard time remembering advertising on Twitter, if it even happens at all.

And, it's not just me.

In a 2013 study about banner blindness, nearly 85% of consumers reported not remembering the last banner ad they saw; and those that did, a mere 2.8% thought they saw something relevant to them.

If I speculate about how the desktop-to-mobile experience is evolving, I'd say that banner blindness will significantly affect how Facebook's news feed works with consumers just skimming over content. Brands and advertisers don't just have to contend with the quirks of Facebook promoted content now they also have to worry about not reaching their intended targets.

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