Are Banners a Bust?


Are Banners a Bust?

By Ashlin Pemberton
AdSupply, Inc.

A look into the standard banner ad format and its effectiveness for advertisers and publishers

While banner ads have been around since 1994, their popularity among internet marketers has recently been on the rocks due to their ineffectiveness at generating high user engagement and conversions. Characteristics such as banner blindness, unseen ads (viewability), traffic fraud, and lack of content creativity contribute to their decline. As display advertising evolves, it’s important to look at some of the factors that are currently limiting the success of standard banners and to determine solutions to provide for better display advertising.

Banner Blindness

Have you ever been to an international shopping market where retailers are flooding the streets, bombarding you with their offers, shoving items in your face and following you around until you get too far from their shop? The first few times you might stop at a retailer that tries to grab your attention, but eventually you start ignoring them and continue on your way. Well, this is what happens online with the website shoving literally dozens of ads in your face instead.

Once users become aware and accustomed to the nature of banner ads they eventually begin to ignore them, either subconsciously or consciously, and develop what is known as ‘Banner Blindness.’ Whether due to sensory overload, a diminishing attention span or perhaps frustration with banners and lack of content synergy with the site, banner blindness means lower ROI for advertisers and lower revenue for publishers.

AdSupply counters banner blindness with its innovative high-impact, off page ad unit that is not blended with the website content. This “leave behind” advertising remains behind the active browser window to be seen by people after they have concluded the current browsing activity.


On the opposite spectrum from banner blindness, where an ad is seen but ignored, the failure of banner ad effectiveness is greatly increased by the ad never even being seen by the visitor. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) an average of only 56% of display ads even have the chance to be viewed. The extremely low viewability of typical display advertising means that around half of all advertising inventory immediately gets tossed into the internet abyss, never to be seen again.

Unseen ads are typically in obscure placements on a user’s browser window, like at the bottom of the webpage (also known as “below the fold”). Most users typically don’t scroll to the bottom of a webpage or even scroll halfway down. This means that a large chunk of advertising budgets go to waste because their ads will never be seen by anyone.

AdSupply has more than 95% viewability for its advertising because we do not count an ad impression until it is actually shown to a visitor. Advertisers don’t have to guess if their advertising is seen because the AdSupply advertising formats do not disrupt the user experience and must be seen before they are tracked for payment.

Traffic Fraud

Traditional display advertising suffers from ever-declining quality because of bots and fake traffic, which is a large and increasing problem in digital advertising. According various security research firms less than half of Internet traffic is from real humans. The American Marketing Association (AMA) estimates that $10 billion is wasted annually on unseen ads and non-human traffic, mainly due to poor quality control on traditional exchanges and DSPs.

AdSupply combats traffic fraud through a combination of 3rd party monitoring of traffic sources as well as proprietary, patent pending traffic analysis technology. AdSupply aggressively monitors the traffic provided publishing partners to ensure the lowest possible bot network activity.

Poor Content Creativity

                Another characteristic that limits banner ads is poor content creativity and the inability to stand out. Trying to get an impactful message in such a tiny space (160×600, 300×250, 728×90, etc.) can limit the effectiveness of these ad units. It is often hard for marketers to distinctly and creatively deploy content that is not only visually attractive, but is also intriguing to users.

Advertisers can spend thousands even millions of dollars to develop a marketing campaign creative. Trying to stuff all of that into the tiny sizes allowed by banners is inefficient and counter-productive. AdSupply instead provides a large format canvas to mirror the creativity of the advertising website itself. Why should an advertiser settle for a tiny window that is either ignored or not even displayed?

Will Banners Bust?

The internet is evolving at a rapid pace and if standard banners fall behind other ad formats in CTR and engagement, it is likely that they won’t be able to recover. According to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), digital ad spending continues to rise every year and is expected to increase 12.4% to $75.44B in 2017 and an additional 11.9% to $84.44B in 2018. As the online landscape changes and spending increases, ad formats that were successful in the past won’t work in the future. People are evolving their online practices and consuming content differently. As a result, digital advertising must evolve as well.