Banner blindness is a real phenomenon that occurs when users ignore content that looks like banner ads. They’ve learned that to avoid ads that annoy them, they can simply avoid rectangular shapes that remind them of banner ads. They even avoid real content if it reminds them of banner ads! Banner blindness is built into the cost of banner ads, which is one reason why ad prices have fallen.
Some have wondered if native ads are susceptible to this same phenomenon, or if they are immune to it. If they are susceptible to it, then we can expect native ads to build native ad blindness into their prices over the next few years.
Here’s what Joe McCambley of The Wonderfactory has to say:
Demand for native content will outstrip the supply of creative talent. As a result, most native experiences will be unremarkable. Consumers will begin the inevitable process of learning to avoid native content the same way they’ve learned to avoid banners, email ads, radio and TV ads, and direct mail.
This quote is an incredibly powerful and bold prediction of the direction native advertising is heading. Right now, native content on Slate and BuzzFeed is pretty good. But as the quality of native content slips and increasingly encroaches on advertorial territory, customers will learn to avoid them.
If McCambley’s bold prediction is true, then it would have radical ramifications for the native advertising industry. Native ads are so profitable precisely because publishers know that they can’t be ignored as readily as banner ads can be. And it is precisely why we have recommended that you don’t skimp on quality when you run native ads.
Stephanie Losee, the managing editor of Dell global communications, agrees, telling Adweek:
People are using it to say, ‘I can say anything.’ Advertorial is soul-destroying. The content should not be promotional. It’s an opportunity to publish content that’s interesting to an audience that is interested in your company.
If publishers begin to use native ads to peddle garbage articles and videos to their users, consumers will start to take notice. This change won’t happen all at once, but they will learn not to click on links nest sound like advertorials. And if these visitors do accidentally click on native ad links, they’ll click away. Publishers will then start to notice this trend and will be willing to spend less on native ads.
This is now the native ad bubble will end: with a whimper, not with a bang. Fortunately, you can avoid this pitfall by treating your site visitors with the utmost respect. Never assume that the trends that are defining your customers’ habits will remain the same. Customers can and do change their viewing habits, and that can directly affect your ad return rate. The wise thing to do is to optimize your ad revenue while diversifying your ad portfolio, respecting your visitors, and increasing your RPMs.
Publishers who assume that the gravy train of any one type of advertising (e.g., native ads, video advertising, social ads) will never stop are putting their businesses in danger. A healthy, diverse ad portfolio is the key to a healthy ad business.