Now in my view, you should absolutely click through to our advertisers’ webpages. It will help make this site better, and it doesn’t cost you much time. But I have the nagging suspicion that click-through rates for most blogs are quite low. So, why would rational businesses spend their marketing budgets here?
There is some literature on this problem. The answer seems to be something called the “exposure effect.” As John Timmer explains:
There is a long history of experiments that show that repeated exposure to a stimulus that’s barely perceptible can enhance a person’s feelings towards what’s otherwise a neutral object. These feelings can include a liking or more subjective things such as “fame, truth, duration, loudness, stimulus brightness and darkness.”
Timmer is summarizing the findings from Xiang Fanget al.’s An Examination of Different Explanations for the Mere Exposure Effect, in which the authors noted that banner ads are a great candidate for increasing brand strength. They tested the hypothesis, and found that
“repeated incidental exposures to banner ads resulted in increased perceptual fluency without increasing recognition. Consistent with past research, we found increased perceptual fluency to be accompanied with more positive evaluations of the ad but not with negative evaluations, suggestive of a positive affect.”
Thus, the article tartly notes that a “practical implication of this research is that online advertisers might be placing excessive emphasis on the click-through rates—the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of online ads. Our results suggest that even when there is no overt sign of effectiveness, such as recognition or click through, the banner ads may still impact ad liking.” Even more interesting, from the perspective of some who might be worried about overkill, “consumers tend to have a relatively high level of tolerance for repeated exposure to banner ads—the wear-out effects of banner ads did not kick in even after 20 exposures in this experiment.”
I’ve got to say that I find this research both fascinating and frightening. On the one hand, it hooks into my total persuasion hypothesis. On another, it suggests an inefficiency in the market for online advertising dollars, which allocates money based on click through rates. Perhaps as this research is replicated, that inefficiency will dissipate. What metric for online advertising’s efficacy is on the horizon? Change in Q-Scores?
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons).