Making web ads that click…or that make people click.

I read a piece the other day that really got to me.  It talked about a book that discussed a study of what draws people to a web ad.

Now you have to understand I’ve spent my whole career working hard to create advertising that has stopping power — ads, commercials, direct mail pieces, etc. that have a unique graphic, message or story that attracts people’s attention.

But the study found that what draws people to a web ad isn’t fancy graphics or animation. It’s text. Plain ol’ text.

The study tracked people’s eye movements while they were on the web.  It found that ads that featured  text only or text and an image drew almost twice as much attention as ads that featured any kind of motion or animation.

To me that seems to fly in the face of common sense…and real life experience.   No way you’re going to miss seeing that guy in the yellow chicken suit waving at you outside the fast food restaurant.  And the motion in a good television commercial can keep you from taking a much-needed refrigerator break.

But, according to the study, the same people who chuckle at the chicken guy on the street are likely to bypass an animated chicken in a web ad.  What’s the difference?

One possible explanation is that until now, we’ve been more or less passive when exposed to advertising…browsing through a newspaper, couch potating in front of a TV, listening to the radio while driving.  We’re not focused on anything in particular so we’re more easily diverted.

But when we’re on the web we’re more likely to be on a mission.  We’ve chosen to visit a website for a reason.  We’ve entered a search term with a purpose.  So we’re less likely to be diverted from that mission by an ad.  But if the ad has something to say— text—we’re more likely to take a look.  (“Maybe it has something to say about what I’m looking for?”)
So I learned a lesson: keep doing that traffic-stopping creative work for our clients in other media. But when we’re working on web ads, keep it simple. Apparently, glitz doesn’t grab.

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