Combatting Banner Blindness: Native Advertising

The first ever banner ad ran in 1994. It was sponsored by AT&T and got a 44 per cent click through rate—a feat that would create quite a stir in today’s online ad market. Despite this method of advertising being nearly 20 years old, it’s still the number one ad type online, making up a 100-billion dollar a year market.

One problem though: banner blindness. Since we’ve been seeing these ads for two decades, we’ve started to ignore them. Either ad blockers remove them, or we just psychologically accept their presence. Either way, banner ads have become largely ineffective. Luckily for companies who still want to push products and ideas online, a whole new form of advertising has emerged in the form of social media ads and paid content placement.

Social Media Advertising: Let’s take Facebook and Twitter as examples, two companies who have built out their ads platforms in time with their IPO filings. Since Twitter is just one stream of information (for now), the benefit of paying for a “promoted” tweet is that it gets embedded into the regular stream of information that someone is reading, not added anywhere around the content like a typical ad. Facebook allows you to run side panel ads (which are almost always detected and deleted by ad blockers), but you can also embed promoted posts into someone’s feed. The benefit of social media advertising is that you can drill down by your demographic—by their likes, their locations, etc. This is never an exact science, but it’s close.

Paid Content Marketing: What do you do when you’re a content-driven site trying to make money from online advertising on your page, but no one’s clicking the banners? Disguise advertisement-like content and serve it to people who will find it relevant now. Companies like Taboola offer to place promoted content directly on similar pages and disguise it using a “You may also like…” category that is formatted to match whatever page it’s on. Time, CNN, Huffington Post and other big names in publishing use this method. It’s worth noting that some ad blockers will get rid of this ad content, but not all quite yet.

These are just two of the latest iterations of what many are calling “native advertising.” Algorithmically cued and micro-targeted,  it’s content that doesn’t need to trick people into clicking, or fight our collective banner blindness—at least not as long as the content is good. That, increasingly, will be the trick.