Clickthrough rates on web banner advertising actually rise! (But they’re still subterranean.)

bbThe headlines last week were near-breathless, announcing that North American clickthrough rates for web banner advertising are rising!

And that’s true on the face of it: According to a new analysis by advertising management company Sizmek based on billions of online ad impressions, the average engagement (clickthrough) rate on a standard banner ad has actually increased.

It’s risen all the way up to 0.14%.

It means that for a standard banner ad, for every 1,000 times it’s served, 1.4 engagements happen.

Here’s what that also means: Don’t bank your business success on online display advertising.

Of course, there are more ways to advertise online than by using standard banner ads. So-called “rich media” ads – ones that incorporate animation and/or sound – perform substantially better.

But it’s all relative, because “substantially better” in this case means that in North America, achieving an average of 2.1 engagements for every 1,000 times a rich media ad is served.

The situation is even worse than these figures imply, actually. When one considers the incidences when viewers accidentally click through on an ad thanks to an errant mouse or a fat finger, even “one out of a thousand” for engagement isn’t really correct.

The Sizmek analysis found that banner ads in certain industries perform better than those in others. Among the “winners” (if one could characterize it that way) are electronic products, apparel, and other retail advertising.

At the bottom?  Automotive, jobs and careers and, ironically, tech and internet advertising.

A glimmer of hope in this continuing saga of hopeless news is in-stream video which, according to the Sizmek study, is generating far higher engagement levels of 1.5% or greater, depending on the degree of interactivity.

But I can’t help but wonder: As the novelty of these newer ad innovations inevitably wears off, won’t we see the same phenomenon occurring over time wherein audiences will become as “blind” to these ads as they are to the standard banner ad today?

As the years roll by and the effectiveness of online banner advertising continues to underwhelm in overwhelming ways, the “drive towards zero” seems to be the relentless theme. I seriously doubt we’re going to see a reversal of that.

Mobile advertising doesn’t work so well … but why?

Lack of advertising engagementOne of the complaints marketers have had about mobile advertising is that the engagement levels are so pitifully low.

But is this really so surprising? … seeing as how clickthrough rates on online banner ads have been in the dumper for years now – well before the explosion of tablet and smartphone usage.

Helpfully, a research study conducted by Praveen Kopalle, a Dartmouth marketing professor, gives us insights as to why mobile ad engagement is so low.  Here are the reasons cited most often in that survey:

  • Mobile screens are too small – 72% of respondents cited this as a reason why they steer clear of mobile ads.
  • Too busy for ads – 70% claimed they don’t have time for ads when they’re on-the-go.
  • Can’t return easily to the content originally being viewed – 69% found this aspect irritating enough to avoid taking action on an ad.
  • Ads take too long to load – 53% cited this factor, which is clearly dependent on the type of mobile device or service available.
  • Not in the mood for ads – 42% identified this as a factor (some things never change).

Other findings in Dr. Kopalle’s survey underscore the fact that mobile advertising needs cut to the chase, because mobile device owners are generally not in “browse” mode while using them.  Consider these contrasting findings between mobile device users and people using desktop or laptop computers:

  • The typical mobile consumer is on his or her smartphone or tablet eight times a day for approximately 15 minutes per session.
  • Desktop and laptops users are more likely to be engaged only once or twice per day – but spend around two hours per session.

Moreover, when mobile devices users are performing information-seeking tasks, nearly half of them reported that ads “do not register” with them. 

The takeaway message for marketers:  In addition to targeting ads to the right audiences, the advertising messages themselves better be super-compelling, because mobile users won’t be paying attention for very long – if at all.