Sixty years ago, advertisers thought subliminal messaging was the future of marketing. Showing people ads so fast they didn’t even register was meant to subconsciously push consumers in the direction of your products.
Though the original research turned out to be fabricated, it has since been shown that messages shown for less than a one-fiftieth of a second actually can influence our emotions, but only at a very basic level.
Of course, today’s buyers of digital ads are looking for more than momentary exposure – even if they were ethically allowed to use subliminal advertising. Yet recent findings from research firm Lumen suggest that, in reality, many ads are being seen for little more than an almost ‘subliminal’ fraction of a second.
Using eye-tracking cameras mounted on laptops, Lumen monitored what consumers noticed when online. Their analysis of over 30,000 minutes of recorded data does not make comfortable reading for marketers pinning their hopes on digital to generate revenues.
Of the 15,000 or so digital ads that could have been seen during the research period, just over 5,000 (35%) got any view time at all. Worse still, only 9% of those that did were given over a second’s worth attention, and only 4% of ads (600) were given any more than that.
Lumen’s Managing Director, Mike Follett, sums up the situation by saying: “Marketers don’t quite understand that just because an ad can be seen, doesn’t mean it has to be seen.”
All this is fueling a growing belief among those who hold the corporate purse strings that some marketers are blowing their budgets in a misguided pursuit of the digital consumer’s pound. That’s not good news at a time when many CEOs are setting aggressive, company-wide cost reduction targets in the expectation that we are heading for another global economic downturn.
Consumers’ willingness to ignore digital ads that are put directly in front of them may help to explain why some companies like Coca-Cola are finding that traditional forms of advertising are providing a better return on investment than their digital equivalents.
Lumen found that while a full-page ad in a tabloid newspaper would be viewed by 88% of readers, and for an average time of 2.8 seconds, a banner-type ad on a website would be looked at by just 38% of people, and only for an average time of 1.5 seconds.
The consequences of this are significant, not just for individual businesses, but for the marketing community in general, as figures outlined in Marketing Week suggest that UK marketers wasted as much as £7.2bn on digital ads that went unseen.
It’s not that digital ads never get looked at, only that the ones that do “tend to be simple, elegant, beautiful ads that a creative department would be proud of, rather than direct mail pieces,” says Mike Follett. “It is very cocky to think anyone is going to look at your digital video for more than 4 seconds. You don’t put a TV ad’s worth of content into a poster, so why try to on digital channels?”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that an advertising channel less than two decades old should still be finding its feet.
So, if you are to take a lesson from this, it is that you need to find a team who can think of digital ads more in terms of a poster that is glimpsed, rather than creating ads that take 10 seconds to read.
This creative shift may start to address marketing’s current inability to proactively optimize its spending so as to consistently control budgets and demonstrate an increase in ROI – something that CEOs are demanding more and more.
Given that, using an online B2B marketplace like blur to find the talent that can see beyond the old solutions is something you may want to give far more than a second’s thought to.
Contact a Marketing Solutions Consultant today to discover more about how blur’s Marketplace can enable you to optimize your marketing spend and maximize ROI.