After wearing a pair of jeans so many times, even our favorite, most comfortable ones eventually start to wear out. First a tiny fray on the left knee, a week later a gaping hole in its place. A month later, tears in the crotch and rear seams render them not only useless, but also offensive and unattractive.
It’s called wear-out, and we’re all experts on it from listening to drive-time radio ads or watching prime-time TV spots. But there are no remotes for online advertising. And while we have the refresh button, we can sometimes refresh until the cows come home without ever seeing a different banner ad.
Excessive advertising repetition eventually leads to wear-out online (I-wear), just as it does in traditional media, but savvy site publishers and interactive media planners can help alleviate the problem.
How Publishers Can Help
Set limits on loops. Site publishers can minimize I-wear for their advertisers by setting limits on the amount of loops, or frames, a banner can go through before it becomes a static image on the page. No matter how annoying the advertiser may have made the creative (enter catch the monkey banner), at least the user will see it cycle through its frames only a limited number of times.
Place restrictions on look and feel. Some publishers will even place restrictions on the look and feel of an advertiser’s creative unit, claiming that flashing or vibrating images can cause users to leave. Still, many sites have no such limitations, making inherently unpleasant messages all the more intrusive when they are repeated.
Don’t place banners in fixed frames. Some publishers try to accommodate their advertisers by placing banners in fixed frames at the top or bottom of a page so that no matter how far down a user scrolls, the ad is always visible. Publishers often make ads at the bottom of daughter windows impossible to hide by preventing the user from dragging the window low enough below the screen frame (common on gaming sites). For advertisers, this is ideal; the ad is always exposed to the user. But if it’s a message the user doesn’t want to see or isn’t interested in, the I-wear factor becomes greater. In this case, there is no escape from the ad, which can create a negative brand image for the user.
The Effects of Repetitive Advertising
Some online publishers may view the effects of repetitive advertising as beneficial. If a user is tired of seeing the same banner looping over and over at the top of the page while she’s trying to read an article, she may refresh until a different banner appears. At the risk of having a slightly annoyed user, the publisher has gained extra page views, and the advertiser has gained extra impressions. This can only mean a higher number of impressions to report to potential advertisers, and it decreases the risk of underdelivering the amount of scheduled impressions to current advertisers.
The opposite outcome is just as likely, however. A user can become so frustrated at having to see the same ad over and over again, that his only choice is to leave the site and surf elsewhere.
How Planners Can Help
Interactive media planners can also do their part to ensure that their clients’ messages are being seen often enough to have an impact without being exasperating.
Take into account a site’s unique users. When buying large quantities of impressions, interactive media planners can take into account how many unique users a site receives each month. If you’re buying a huge number of impressions on a relatively small site, the possibility of banner wear-out increases.
Request frequency caps on ads. When interactive media planners buy huge quantities of impressions for branding purposes in relation to site page views or unique users, the user is again susceptible to forming a negative association with the brand due to the repetition of the ad. But planners can request that frequency caps be placed on their ads to prevent I-wear. If a banner has a frequency cap of two, a user will be exposed to that banner only twice. For branding, the frequency cap can be greater. Usually, banner wear-out starts to happen after a frequency of four or five, but depending on the creative unit, it can vary.
Banner wear-out becomes detectable when campaigns result in low click-through rates and high costs per click. When campaigns are judged by those criteria alone, they are rendered ineffective or inefficient by the client/agency.
A Storybook Ending
In a world where interactive budgets still pale in comparison with traditional media budgets, interactive media planners are responsible for creating value in their clients’ campaigns.
Publishers seeking to improve advertisers’ campaign results in the hopes of gaining future business are responsible not only for providing the user with a positive experience but also for providing the advertiser with the best possible results.
By reducing I-wear, all of these things can happen, leaving the user and brand image to live happily ever after.