THE BLOG
06/29/2010 11:00 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

All Advertising Is "Somewhat Subliminal," Not Just Banners

A suitable follow-up to the tribute offered in this space to the creative banner winners at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival last week comes the report in Online Media Daily that banners manage to have a "somewhat subliminal" effect on consumers. Says the article by Laurie Sullivan:

Consumers say they ignore static banner ads, and don't click on them, but eMarketer Senior Analyst David Hallerman cites stats from a Microsoft Atlas study that suggest the static strips running across the tops of Web pages still influence purchase decisions.

The science behind the report is not detailed in the story. It appears we may have to wait for the release of a study from Microsoft Atlas. The supposition, however, fits comfortably with our understanding of the real world: consumers would prefer to ignore advertising.

Interestingly, the world is divided over how to deal with that problem. One side feels free to engage consumers with intrusive creative formats that launch in their face. The other continues experimenting with the creative potential of banners, and their associated standard IAB unit cousins.

The intrusive, "gotcha" crowd wants to trade robust creative in the form of sight, sound and motion in exchange for a few moments of consumer attention. They are a 'bells and whistles' crowd. Their "As long as you're here" counterparts on the opposite side rely on the environment of the web sites for help with audience engagement. They are a permission-driven crowd.

"Somewhat subliminal," however, applies to the affect both of them have on advertising influence. One is quietly subliminal. The other is overtly subliminal. One is "I ignore you because for a minute I didn't see you hiding there," and the other is, "I ignore you because you're loud and obnoxious." The only affect advertisers can hope to have, in the absence of great creative, is "somewhat subliminal." Beyond that, it's just a question of what impression they desire to have remain in the consumer subconscious.

Which sounds like a reason to keep working on great banner advertising.