Text-Only Ads are the Most Effective

Advertisers are “often wrong about what attracts our attention” is the conclusion of a usability study looking at how users interact with online advertising.

The study, published in the report Eyetracking Web Usability by the Nielsen Norman Group (a usability consultancy firm from Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice), suggests that text-only advertising is the most effective advertising method for many websites.

Do you think you’re more likely to look at an online ad if it contains 1) a picture, 2) an animation or 3) just text? The answer: just text. […]

The headline result: simpler is better (not to mention probably cheaper to produce). Participants in the study looked at 52% of ads that contained only text, 52% of ads that had images and text separately and 51% of sponsored links on search-engine pages. Ads that got a lot less attention included those that imposed text on top of images (people looked at just 35% of those) and ones that included animation (it might seem movement is attention-grabbing, but only 29% of these ads garnered a look). […]

People in the study saw 36% of the ads on the pages they visited — not a bad hit rate. The average time a person spent looking at an ad, though, was brief — one-third of a second.

This is an evolution of what Nielsen called banner blindness, right?

via @contentini



2 responses to “Text-Only Ads are the Most Effective”

  1. But has a text only ad ever stuck with you? Could you tell me two or three of your favorites?

  2. This is a good point (and the answer to your first question is No), but are we looking at two different things, I wonder?

    Putting aside for a moment the inherent limitation of choosing an optimal advertising medium from a usability viewpoint, this is dealing with embedded advertising on the predominantly text-based Internet*.

    In this case we’re looking at views (rather than impressions), click through rates and, finally, sales as a measure of effectiveness. It seems fair in this case and a good way to quantify an advert’s success.

    However the wonderfully unquantifiable brand awareness is completely lost in advertising like this (unless minimalist, text-only advertising is your brand’s image), and brand awareness is absolutely priceless.

    The only adverts I can recall immediately are huge, visual, bold and controversial. They are emotive and they’re fantastic. I may not have clicked on them, bought anything because of them or even discussed them with anyone: but I sure remember them… and the brand behind them.

    *For ‘predominantly text-based’ read blogs or the majority of corporate websites that don’t get it.