Can More Sympathetic Ad Formats Restore the Online User Experience?

Once upon a time, the advertising industry was seen as glamorous. The popular TV series, Mad Men, was not far off in terms of the power and charm that the big-shot advertisers wielded in the 60s. They were not only admired for their profit-boosting ability but for their intellect and creativity. We look back on this golden era of advertising and conceptualise adverts as works of art. As a commentary on the values of the time. As insightful and thought-provoking. Interestingly, this is how most consumers viewed advertising at the time too. It was an art form, an elite profession and the creators were in a league of their own. 

Now, the advertising industry is perceived very differently. We are the disrupters – and not in the cool way that Netflix and Monzo and other companies have styled themselves as industry disrupters. Now Advertisers are seen as the interrupters of television programmes and radio shows, of magazine and newspaper articles and online content. Stealing users’ focus away and breaking up their entertainment and information with unwelcome promotions. 

It can even be argued that it is online advertising that has done the most damage to the perception of ads. As it was possible, and effortless, to scan over a newspaper advertisement or take the opportunity to make a cup of tea during the TV adverts, traditional advertising was never viewed as obscenely intrusive. Yet, having to scroll past or click off advertisements on a mobile phone, or other device, is annoying. Sometimes, ignoring online ads even requires users to take action, often users have to actively shut them down.

For a while, there was a surge in online advertising but back then the internet was a less crowded place. Now, with the decline in print media consumption, advertising online has become essential for almost every business. The problem is, there’s only so much space and users will only put up with a limited amount of adverts on a website before deciding it’s impeding too much on their experience.

Of course, the advantage of advertising online, as opposed to print, is we’re better armed. We have metrics, we have tracking and analytics and so we should be doing better. Despite this, many advertisers are still playing a numbers game when they should be looking at doing less, better. 

For this, we need to turn to format. Some (not all) new formats have the power to deliver better conversion rates. By leveraging formats that convert, we can not only increase sales and reduce waste ad spend but also improve the reputation of advertising in the long term.

Let’s look at some of the more traditional and the newer advertising formats – how they work and what the pros and cons really are, both in terms of metrics and in terms of brand reputation:

How Effective Are Banner Adverts?

Banner adverts showcase a brand and can be visually appealing. Easy to create and place, they typically appear at the top of web pages. Yet, they have been around for some time now and, as a result, they are far less effective than they once were. In fact, many web users have developed banner blindness. They have just gotten too used to ignoring this part of a webpage.

To compensate for this, advertisers should consider placing banner adverts in less typical places, such as at the end of a webpage or within the navigation menu. Furthermore, to be truly eye-catching, banner ads must take full advantage of their visuals and copy. Dull and basic just won’t cut through. Designers of banner ads must seek to inspire, not only to inform.

Advertisers may also consider using animation or video. However, designers should also be mindful of accessibility, particularly when adding advanced features or designs that may be considered overwhelming for some users and unusable in mobile format.

How Effective Are Pop Ups? 

It’s impossible to discuss intrusive advertising without bringing up pop-up adverts. We know that web users have a strong dislike of this format, many even click the cross before the ad has even loaded, and yet they are still used.

One issue with pop-up ads is we now have many other pop-up messaging to contend with, including cookie consent notifications and invitations to subscribe or to claim a discount. As a result, many browsers have ad-blockers installed.

If you are determined to use pop-ups, there are a couple of things you can do to make your ads less intrusive. The first is to stop setting them to appear when a new page or website is opened. Users are often having to deal with cookie consents at this point and they are likely keen to get to the content they’ve been seeking. Blocking this is not likely to get you noticed in a positive way. Users may be more susceptible to pop-ups that appear after they have begun to explore the website, or even when they are about to leave it. 

You also need to either give the user a very good reason to leave the page and click on your advert link or subscribe/register/join, such as with a unique offer, highlighting a benefit or making an ethical case.

How Effective Are Video Ads?

The effectiveness of video ads largely depends on the target audience and placement. Younger users tend to prefer video formats as the information can be more easily digestible and visually appealing. They’ll often visit YouTube or TikTok for information or instruction, rather than read an article or blog. Others, find videos to be the most intrusive advertising format, often slowing down page loading and blasting out unwelcome sounds. Hence, video ads are best placed within existing videos, as opposed to within banner ads or pop-ups.

Traditionally, video adverts have been among the most expensive to produce. However, with the rise of smarter technologies, the process is being made simpler and quicker which is bringing down costs. A few quick-fire tips for video ads:

  • They should be short and sweet (around 20-30 seconds ideally)
  • You need to use proper targeting to reach only the most relevant audiences
  • Do not use AI for voiceovers – it sounds flat and artificial
  • Use an attention-grabbing question or scenario in the first few seconds to avoid users skipping your ad
  • Don’t forget a call to action

How Effective Are Native Adverts?

Native ads are widely believed to be among the most effective formats. Designed to blend in, they are placed within content deemed to appeal to a similar demographic or those who are seeking out information related to the brand’s products and services. Aiming to slide into existing content, native adverts tend to be understated making them less intrusive and simple to design.

Admessenger’s adverts do a very similar thing but come with the added power of scroll which mimics news alerts and therefore draws even more attention.

The challenge with native ads is targeting. Success with this format relies on adverts being placed amongst the most relevant content. This can be achieved through data-driven targeting and A/B testing.

Admessenger uses a sophisticated content crawling system that allows us to automate the matching of adverts and audiences. The effectiveness of this is proven by our high engagement and superior click-through rates.

Increasing Engagement With Emerging Ad Formats.

In the interest of protecting brand reputation and minimising waste ad spend, advertisers need to be harnessing the power of smart technology and new formats to reach and engage with their target market. Traditional online advertising formats, such as banners and pop-ups are becoming increasingly ineffective with web users either feeling irritated by them or else no longer even noticing them. So, it’s important to look to new methods and technologies that audiences are more likely to be drawn to and engage with. To achieve this, advertisers should consider the following:

More Sophisticated Targeting

Targeting in a competitive market has to be better. With the impending loss of third-party cookies, advertisers may have to review how they’re reaching relevant audiences. Content crawling, as used by Admessenger, does not encroach upon the privacy of web users, making it a more ethical method of targeting audiences online.

Opting For Non-Intrusive Ads

Large, loud adverts damage the user experience and ultimately harm the brand responsible. We must remember that audiences aren’t usually seeking out promotions, they’re consuming content they’ve chosen to engage with. Therefore, if you’re going to interrupt them, it should be with a tap on the shoulder and not a foghorn in their face. Banner ads, videos and pop-ups can find this balance particularly challenging. Whereas, formats such as scrolling ads and other forms of native ads are more subtle but no less effective. In fact, so long as they appear in the most relevant places, they generally experience above-average click-through rates. For transparency though, and to avoid the wrath of the ASA, make sure they are clearly labelled as advertisements or sponsored content.

You may also consider frequency capping to reduce the number of times set audiences see your adverts.

Experiment And Track Campaigns

Different approaches work for different brands. Once popular formats lose their effectiveness and new methods, such as incorporating augmented reality or interactivity into ads, can seem exciting but may prove expensive, and complex, and deliver low ROIs. There is no perfect formula and with technologies and capabilities changing and developing so rapidly, advertisers need to try new formats. What’s even more important though, is to track these campaigns extremely well. 

In-depth analysis of the ongoing performance of your various advertising campaigns is essential to ensure you’re putting your budget and efforts into the right advertising solutions for your clients or your business. Admessenger sends regular reports that are user-friendly, easy to understand and yet highly detailed, making it simple for clients to keep track of their Admessenger performance.

Mobile Advertising

A common mistake businesses are still making is underestimating the importance of mobile ads. With most people accessing the internet on their mobile devices, if your adverts are not optimised for mobile formats then you’re missing out on a huge audience. You should be looking at browser mobile ad solutions and in-app mobile advertising formats.

Scroll works particularly well on mobile because whilst the user moves content up, Admessenger scrolling ads remain fixed, giving the user time to follow the ad message as it moves across the screen. Most scrolling adverts are known to be complex to produce, yet Admessenger can have yours up and running in just minutes. 

Try our Free Demo Builder to see just how simple it is.


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