It appears that we humans are quite adaptable. In a relatively short time, nearly all of us have learned to ignore ads on the Internet. The best way to prove this is through eye tracking studies that capture exactly what we are looking at on a Web page.
A great visual representation of this is through the use of heat maps that show the greatest concentrations of attention as red, lesser attention as yellow, and, finally, no color markings for areas of the Website that failed to capture any attention.
For example, the image below shows the results of an eye tracking study done on three disparate Websites, with the results displayed as a heat map overlay of the site. The ad spaces are clearly marked by the yellow boxes. As you can see, all of the readers' attention is on the content section of the Website -- the areas marked in red and yellow.
To make matters worse for advertisers, browser plug-ins that block 99 percent of all advertising from ever reaching the intended audience are growing in popularity. For example, Adblock Plus is a one-click plug-in for your browser that was recently downloaded 363,934 times in one week. That is roughly 19 million downloads a year, which is equivalent to 27 percent of all U.S. households with Internet connections. It is also likely that the type of users who install ad blockers skew towards the more educated and higher income brackets that advertisers covet.
So, if consumers are ad blind and using ad blockers more and more, how will advertisers respond? Reducing online advertising spending is not a likely outcome. The advertisers know they need to be online and are moving greater shares of their advertising budgets online every year to reflect the fact that the Internet is now the No. 1 media channel at work and the No. 2 media channel at home. (See P&G Canada’s recent announcement that it will increase online advertising from 3 percent to 20 percent of its total budget.)
The most likely response is a shift in advertising spending away from the ad networks and to branded content placed on the content real estate of targeted sites. Advertisers are increasing their budgets to create rich media and branded content. They need to find a way to engage customers with this content on chosen partner sites.
This will require a new technical mechanism that overcomes the limitations of micro sites. Hopefully, everyone will be better off as brands move away from ads and towards meaningful content, such as linking back to their Website via posted videos, podcasts, blogs, and other rich media supplements, in order to engage their customers.
— Marc Osofsky, VP of Marketing, Optaros