Online Banner Effectiveness In the Age of the Conscious Consumer

Literature Review, 2011
18 Pages, Grade: none

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Table of Contents



Banner Sizes

Banner Blindness

Banner Designs

Adaptation Vs. Standardization

Emotional Vs. Rational

Optimize it: Eye Tracking

Optimize it: Innovation

Social Media: An HR Perspective

The Future of Online Advertising


This paper will cover research as it pertains to the current state of online banner advertising. Banner advertisements are standard sizes (see Exhibit 2) sold by websites for revenue and are usually placed on the outside parameter of the website. Over the years the Internet has revolutionized the way consumers interact with each other, as well as the brands they buy. Research has shown that advertising, as a whole, is part creative and part science, because it is difficult to know how consumers will truly react (Pringle, 2009). Advertising online adds even more layers of complexity due to the seemingly endless amounts of information. Today, the risk in advertising has been diminished by more in-depth market research measuring data points.Studies have been conducted to evaluate what colors, sizes and placements work best while advertising online, but none have focused on all aspects of online banner placement (Jelinek, 2011).In reality, online banner exposure does not depend as much on rate, but more on strategic placement and user interaction/emotion.


It is often believed that the first data transfer was in the 1960’s between governmental offices, but in reality the very first electrical data transfer happened at the end of 1945 when documents were transferred between microfiche (Connolly, 2000). Throughout the mid-to-late 1980’s computers were integrated into businesses for intranets to send “inmail” (the predecessor to email). In the early 1990’s Tim Burns-Lee, with the help of his team created the World Wide Web (WWW) as well as the language in which it spoke – Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), which allowed the internet to communicate between servers throughout the world (W3C, 2011).

The Internet was created to be utilized as an educational resource for transferring knowledge worldwide. Yet, within a few years, organizations and companies saw potential for building brand recognition, as well as advertising opportunities. Not all companies were ready to jump onto the digital revolution-– many companies waited until the mid-to-later part of the 1990’s to even create websites. This said, one forward thinking marketer at AT&T thought advertising on the Internet was worth giving a try. In 1994 the world’s first online advertisement was created, and the way people interacted with brands forever changed (see Exhibit 1 highlighted in yellow) (Cookson, 2011).

Creating a persuasive advertisement is a difficult and sometimes overlooked process. In today’s online climate, consumers are overwhelmed with advertisements on every website they visit. So how does an advertiser get his message across to the consumer? Conventional wisdom would state that to catch a consumer’s eye, the advertiser would want to contrast as much as possible. But it is quite the opposite. Today, online readers are more informed, busier and less likely to pay attention to an online banner advertisement (Jacob, 2003).

Exhibit 1

Worlds first online advertisement: AT&T

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Cookson, 2011

Banner Sizes: The first step in designing an online banner advertisement is deciding on what size it should be. The most popular banner sizes, in pixels, are, 728x90 (Leaderboard), 160x600 (Skyscraper) & 250x250 (Square) (see Exhibit 2). The success of banner ads is specifically determined through a quantitative approach. It is called the click-through-rate (CTR). This measures how many people click on the banner and are re-directed to the advertisers landing page. A successful rate CTR is about 2%-3% (Zhang, 2006).The biggest problem with this way of measurement is that it doesn’t discuss how many clicks were accidents, or if the consumer clicked the ad and shortly after being redirected to the landing page he or she closes the website window. This aside, the advertiser is also concerned with the consumer remembering the advertisement.

Exhibit 2

Standard Banner Sizes

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Banner Blindness:

According to research done at Wichita State University (WSU), only 37% of its participants could remember what a given banner ad was about. The researchers asked the participants to view four sites (that WSU created) and answer specific questions. The answer to each question was next to or near a specifically placed banner ad. After the first round of questioning was answered, the participants were than asked to remember what the banner ads were about and for what company they were for. Nearly 18% of the participants never even noticed a banner ad (Bayles, 2002). This phenomenon is called “Banner Blindness”.Jan P. Benway and David M. Lane first coined the term in 1998, while working on one of the earliest studies of banner ad effectiveness. Online consumers have become very good at ignoring banner advertisements. One way to diminish the affect of Banner Blindness is by consuming all of the Share of Voice (SOV). SOV determines how much of the available advertising space is controlled by one brand. The higher the SOV percentage the better chance a consumer will interact with the brand. In 2010 Lexus bought 100% SOV for Pandora, a music streaming site, which makes money from consistently changing banner ads (See Exhibit 3). Not only did Lexus gain exposure through the advertisement, it also gained exposure from blogs and social media sharing the unique campaign. Engaging consumers with banner advertisements is the only way advertisers and marketers can continue to effectively sell/promote online.

Exhibit 3

Non-intrusive advertising by Lexus on Pandora

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Wetherell, 2010

Design It:

Having 100% of the SOV can be quite beneficial for advertising success. Yet, successful online banner advertisements require more than purchasing all of the space available. Colors are also very important. Contrasting colors are actually ignored more than colors that match the site where the advertisement is placed (Jacob, 2003).Furthermore, colors have different meanings in different cultures and with the preverbal shrinking world, it will be important to ensure the right colors are used. For example, in Western Countries the color brown indicates earth, warmth, reliability and comfort. But in Columbia brown is used to discourage the sale of a product (Chapman, 2010). International factors are important considerations when developing an advertisement. But luckily, cultural issues can be minimized with today’s technology. Banner ads can be deployed in specific geographic locations with the assistance of high-tech software.

Adaptation Vs. Standardization:

This does raise a few questions about standardization versus adaptation. Standardization happens when a product or service is designed in a way that there is little to no customization when it is used in a new form. While adaptation focuses on adjusting the product or service to fit the desires of the new market. Adaptation sometimes, depending on the market and the product or service, it may be the only way to penetrate the market. But, adaptation may not be the right choice according to Szymanski, Bharawaj and Varadarajan (1993). This is because adaptation can take away from economies of scale. That is why companies often use the standardized advertisement and adapt the advertisement to the local market, when the target market segmentation have the same ideals. Exhibit 4 visualizes an example of standardization with adaptation, also known as a global localization approach, for the L'Oréal® cosmetics brand. The original online banner ad shows a confident, beautiful “Western” woman while the adapted ad for Japan shows the same confident, beautiful woman, but this time the model is of Japanese descent.

Exhibit 4

Example of Adaptation of Banner advertisements

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenAbbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

USA Japan

Source: Wetherell, 2010

Emotional Vs. Rational:

In the advertising world today, there is an ongoing debate on the best way to sell. On one hand, a group of advertisers believe that the “hard sell” or rational sell is the way to persuade consumers to purchase their product or service. On the other hand, there is a growing group of advertisers who believe the “soft sell” or emotional sell is the best way to build brand awareness.Usually rational advertisements are easier to gauge because it has less ambiguity in comparison to emotional ads. Yet, Pringle and Field’s (2009) book claimed that emotional ads are likely to create twice as much profit gains when compared with rational ads. They often refer to the Honda “Cogs” commercial (Exhibit 5). In 2003-2004 Honda’s sales in the U.K. were underperforming. Honda hired the Wieden & Kennedy (WK) ad agency to help improve the sales. WK came up with the concept of taking the parts of the Honda Accord (the model they were selling in the ad) to create a dominos effect. The commercial starts with a sprocket from the transmission cavity rolling down a wooden plank, falling onto the camshaft which roles into the exhaust pipe. For two minutes the camera follows the parts of the Honda as they all eventually lead to the “hero shot” of the Honda Accord. Honda saw a quadrupling in inquires about its Honda Accord in the U.K. and sales doubled (Pringle and Field, 2009). So why isn’t emotional advertising overtaking rational advertising? Well for one reason,the “Cogs” commercial took over 6 months to create as well as 700 takes to compile all of the shots. Many companies do not have the resources or time to accommodate such a schedule, and that is why the simple hard sell is still the most popular sales technique for all mediums, including online banner ads.

Emotional advertisements are successful only when it has the full attention of the consumer. So how can online banner ads break through Banner Blindness? Over the years online banner ads have evolved from static images to animated images. But as the advertisements have changed, so has the threshold for consumer’s Banner Blindness.

Exhibit 5

Honda’s Emotional TV ad campaign “Cogs”

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Pringle and Field, 2009

Optimize it:Eye tracking

The best way to get around Banner Blindness is to optimize the advertisement and see what the consumer sees. Eye tracking is a way advertisers and marketers can see where and how a consumers analyzes a product. In recent years it has become an important part of product design, and even more recently website developers, as well as online advertisers have been using the technology to optimize websites and online advertisement placement.

Believe it or not, this is not new technology. The study of eye movement has been around for over 100 years. The early years of eye tracking were far more evasive than today’s technology and usually included uncomfortable nodes placed on the cornea to detect the eye movement (Jacob, 2003). The early experiments were not used for optimization of any medium, but for learning how the eye moves. In 1905, scientists wanted to study how the eye worked while watching a motion picture. Since they were trying to measure how an eye reacts to moving images, the scientists could not block the eye with a node, so a white spec was inserted into the eye for accurate reading. As technology progressed so did the way eye movements were captured. In the late 1950’s, scientists recorded eye movement by reflecting light within the cornea (Jacob, 2003). Today sophisticated computers and cameras are used in unity to capture the eye movements and apply them digitally to any image displayed on the computer. There are two main types of eye tracking reputations: heat maps and plot gazes (see Exhibit 6). Heat maps indicate how long the eye looked at a given spot (indicated by the deepening color), and gaze plots indicate in what order the participant looked at what part of the screen (linked by lines).

Exhibit 6

Eye Tracking Reporting: Gaze Plots and Head Maps

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Currently eye tracking is used to optimize websites, but in recent years eye tracking is becoming a popular way to analyze better banner ad placements. A study in 2004 by Outing and Ruel indicated that consumers analyze a website the same way they read a book. Starting in the upper left hand corner and scanning across to the right in a zigzag motion. Furthermore, the team created an overlay map indicating where the eyes were fixated (see Exhibit 7).

Exhibit 7

Eye movement priority Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenAbbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Outing and Ruel, 2004

This research indicates that the most affective ads are placed in the upper left hand corner. But oftentimes the website logo and the navigation bar is located in that region. The second best place to place an advertisement is below the navigation or directly to the right of the logo (as indicated by Priority 2 in Exhibit 7).This information can be utilized when deciding on where to place an advertisement on a given page. This increases the cost due to the fact that the process cannot be standardized.

Optimize it: Innovative

Today’s banner ads are increasingly complex. A major dispute between advertisers and its clients is how current banner ads do not send consumers to landing pages. Instead the banner ads become interactive experiences for the consumer. As discussed earlier, traditional banner ads came in standard sizes and were designed to entice the consumer to click on it. Today, banner ads can expand over the website to integrate interaction with the consumer. Recently HP had an interactive 250x250 banner ad to promote its new all-in-one touch screen desktop. When the mouse clicked on the banner, it expanded to create an experience for the consumer. It included a video about the product, the technical specifications, previews of the product and a buy now button. The new types of ads keep the consumer in the webpage he or she was navigating, but at the same time envelopes him or her in the brand experience of HP (see Exhibit 8).

Exhibit 8

HP’s integrative banner ad

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenAbbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenSource: Wetherell, 2010

Interactive banners have reduced Banner Blindness mainly due to curiosity of the consumer. That said, there is a constant need for innovation and creativity because with time, consumers will begin to ignore the flashy ads (Bayles, 2002). Furthermore, web consumers have growing options to avoid banner advertisements. In 2010, Apple’s browser, Safari, integrated a new feature, which made it possible to get rid of “those pesky ads” ( It works by isolating the articles and corresponding images (see Exhibit 9). Currently Apple’s Safari accounts for less than 5% of the online browning market, and at present other web browsers have not followed suit. For now, it may seem that Safari Reader has not affected the way banner ads are created and interacted with (Robins, 2010).

Exhibit 9

Apple’s website reader application to remove banner advertisements

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Image source:

Social Media: An HR prospective

In the recent years, social media has been hailed as the new frontier of online advertising. It creates a way for advertisers and marketers to communicate with the audience. Often times it is a great way to quickly send a message to a brands audience through facebook or twitter. Today’s tools have made it even easier to multitask with social media. The most popular software is called, “tweetdeck”. Tweetdeck allows users to operate multiple accounts (personal, professional, facebook, twitter & blogs) within the same window – creating a streamlined operation for social media experts. At the same time the speed of communication can lead to misrepresentation of a brand (Kiley, 2011). For example, in March of 2011, a representative of Chrysler Auto Group LLC., posted the following tweet, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*****g drive”.As one can imagine, Chrysler did not issue the tweet, and in actuality it was a mistake by the social media expert handling the twitter feed within tweetdeck. Since tweetdeck allows more than one account at the same time, the social media expert accidentally meant to send the tweet to his private account, but an unfortunate click cost him his job. See Chrysler’s response to the rogue tweet.

“This morning an inappropriate comment was issued from the Chrysler brand Twitter handle, @ChryslerAutos, via our social media agency of record, New Media Strategies (NMS). After further investigation, it was discovered that the statement was issued by an NMS employee, who has since been terminated.

Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication. Furthermore, the Company has set in place appropriate steps to ensure that this does not happen again.” (, 2011)

Chrysler should have handled the situation better.According to media expert Andrew Kirk (2011) the company should openly acknowledge the mistake, take full responsibility and turn the mistake into a creative marketing campaign involving consumers to let their voice be heard. Needless to say, that didn't happen, but it raises an example for future HR representatives to look at while making a policy decision about social media.

The Future of Online Banner Advertising:

Taking all of the information into account, it may seem that there are some very large barriers in the way of connecting to consumers with website banner advertisements. The future may never be clear, but there are many factors to take into account to lessen the uncertainties. First, know what the consumer wants. Listen, watch and learn from how the user interacts with technology. That will ensure a brand’s success. After a consumer group (target group) is profiled, it will be time to determine if the group is susceptible to emotional or rational advertisements (hard or soft sell). After those parameters are solved, be creative and innovative to engage the consumer with the brand. Online advertising is complex and it means online banner exposure does not depend as much on rate, but more on strategic placement and user interaction/emotion.


Bayles, M. E. (2001). Designing Online Banner Advertisements: Should We Animate? N.p.: Usability News.

Chrysler Group Response to #MotorCity Tweet (2011, March 9). In Chrysler LLC.. Retrieved October 8, 2011

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Szymanski, D. M., Bharadwaj, S. G., & Varadarajan, R. P. (2003). Standardization versus Adaptation of International Marketing Strategy: An Empirical Investigation. Chicago, IL: Journal of Marketing.

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Online Banner Effectiveness In the Age of the Conscious Consumer
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington
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online, banner, effectiveness, conscious, consumer
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Sean Wetherell (Author), 2011, Online Banner Effectiveness In the Age of the Conscious Consumer, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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