Display advertising or banner ads on the web look for all the world like a textbook example or direct action advertising – you see the banner and then click through in direct response to the message – just like the “cut out this coupon and bring it to the store” or “call this free phone number” adverts developed in previous decades.
Facebook’s $100 billion IPO is based mostly on banner ads, however industry figures suggest these ads have a click through rate of only 0.1%, so how can this possibly add up?
Perhaps a more realistic metric for success in this form of advertising is not the direct response percentage but the exposure they provide – nobody clicks on a billboard but if you drive past a few on the way to work every day I bet you can remember right now what they have been advertising lately.
I know from personal experience that almost any time I add to that 1 in 1000 click through figure its because I hit a banner by mistake but I can list companies from memory who I regularly see advertised on Facebook. Given that these ads are also demographically targeted to me using the details in my profile there clearly is value beyond click through here. After all nobody ever clicked through on a TV advertisement, it’s all about exposure.
As opinion builds that banner ads are more about increasing awareness of an offering and building affinity with a brand, rather than getting an impulse to click on them to navigate off the page that you are reading, the purpose of their image content will surely be under review. The result could shape future product and retail photography commissions and might even give rise to more use of bespoke images, what do you think?