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Social Media Banners don’t work because they don’t have time to be seen

by Scott Hoffman on February 24, 2010

Banner and Display ads haven’t proven successful in Social Media. In my opinion I don’t think that banners will ever succeed under current media buying standards.

Here is the reason:

The average page view on Facebook is only exposed for about a second, on MySpace the average is two. For content sites like ESPN or CNN the average time that a user spends viewing a page jumps to over 10 seconds. This means that, a maximum the average that an advertising banner can be displayed is a second or two, which doesn’t leave much time to make an impression (or even be seen) by a user. Banners don’t work in Social Media because they are not seen.

This rapid page view pattern seems to be specific to social media platforms, according to data from Google’s Ad Planner. Honestly I don’t think that this totally accurate, but I did want to share it for directional purposes.

I compared Facebook & MySpace (Both Social,) Yahoo & MSN (Both Portal,) CNN & ESPN (Both Content) and (Video) and here are the results:

Note: Google’s Ad Planner does not include data on their own properties or which I wanted to include. Here are the individual breakdowns of each of the sites profiled, if anyone wants to double check my methodology.

Update: just announced this morning their Interactive Engagement Suite (Source MediaPost.) The new “videostitial” format is a full-page, 15-second, HD-quality welcome video with audio capabilities. “Page engage” ads are expandable ad units featuring multiple videos displayed in full page, which users can choose from once the ad has expanded. An example of going beyond the the Page View.







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  • Daniel Redman

    You're half right, in my humble opinion.

    Because engagement time is so low, ads have to be produced to accommodate. If you only have someones attention for 1 second, what can and would you tell them?

    There's still success to be had there because buys can be so competitive, just don't even attempt to 'tell a story'.

  • scotthoffman

    Daniel, thanks for participating in the conversation – I do agree that in order to even have a fighting chance at making a social media banner campaign work, you have to design it specifically for this rapid page surfing behavior.

    But at some point the price that you can buy inventory becomes too low…let me explain, in many instances it cost money (fractions of cents) to actually serve the ads, track the ads, manage the the ads, and don't forget your agencies fee, that it becomes a negative sum game.

    My 2 cents – check out my post tomorrow on an '07 study on banner blindness, that further amplifies this issue…thanks again for participating!

  • Daniel Redman

    Thanks for the quick response.

    Depending upon the hood you were raised those are typically nominal costs that aren't calculated in ROAS… with obviously a ton of additional variables. Contrary to belief, I still hold regard for the value of social media ad impressions. I've seen wild swings in paid search conversion with social ads. Affiliate marketers are gobbling them up faster than Kobayashi on a Nathan's for a reason. There is no other place that gives hyper-targeting for a .25CPM.

    Looking forward to your banner-blindness post. I cringe at the word.

  • stevenmorvay

    Quick answer to how do you work with 1 second of viewer attention……OFFERS. Give a reason to click rather than a reson to read.

  • Stanley Wong

    Completely agree with this post.

    Social media exhibits the same level of banner blindness and limited exposure time that we've seen on things like Webmail (Y! Mail, Hotmail, etc.).

    In addition to this problem, there isn't any monetizable intent within the context of Social Media like you have with search.

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  • Daniel Redman

    75% of consumers will seek the advice of their peers on social networks prior to making a purchase online. I'd call that a pretty strong, though underlying intent source. Search isn't even a comparable, as it's pull and social ads are push strategy. Different stage of the funnel. Stanley, you are flat out Wong.

    You're not really, I just wanted to say that.

  • ivv

    Eyetracking studies ( done on display ads show that those are looked at for an average of one second in general, regardless (if I remember correctly) of how much time people spend on the page, so it is not a problem particular just to the social media sites.

  • scotthoffman

    Stanley & Dan – your both right – “75% of consumers will seek the advice of their peers on social networks prior to making a purchase online.” but that doesn't come from banners which is the issue…

    my 2 cents

    PS Dan, do you have a link to that 75% research?

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