For most of us, ads on the Internet are about as obnoxious—or more so—than those on TV or in magazines. But like it or not, ads on your favorite website are here to stay. The free-with-advertising model is entrenched on the Internet, and those garish, blinking, swooping banners help pay the bills. Part of the reason Internet ads are so visually intrusive is because we’ve gotten extraordinarily good at ignoring them. Advertisers are trying trick in the book to grab our attention, and we keep wandering away.
So imagine the chutzpah of a company that has made a new Internet ad platform that allows readers and viewers to save ads for later viewing. At first blush, their business model seems akin to people asking telemarketers to call back later. Yet in a way, that’s just what AdKeeper is proposing.
The plucky startup has attracted the attention of the New York Times—the parent company invested while editorial has written an article on it (replete with disclosures, of course). AdKeeper’s approach is a fundamental shift in the way companies conceive of advertising on the Internet, and according to the firm’s data, users are responding positively, with click-through rates (a measure of an ad’s success) 34 times higher than your typical Google ad.
AdKeeper has its work cut out for it, though. “Banner blindness,” or readers’ ability to tune out ads on a website, is a major problem for advertisers, and one that AdKeeper doesn’t solve, according to Derek Rucker, an associate professor of marketing. “AdKeeper requires at least initial attention to an advertisement,” he said. “Banner blindness occurs because people literally don’t even move their gaze towards ads.”
Presuming advertisers find a way past banner blindness, AdKeeper could meet with some success. “It could be of value when we see something of interest,” Rucker said, “but finding better ways to reach consumers with the right advertisements that are engaging is a separate hurdle.”
Thad McIlroy, who runs the website The Future of Publishing, says in the Times article that online advertisers have erected that hurdle themselves by deploying unsightly ads. Giving Internet ads some of the glamor their print cousins enjoy could help boost click-through rates. Rucker agrees that better design may help, but only to a point. “I think aesthetics is only part of the solution,” he said. “Part of the problem is you are advertising to consumers in a cluttered environment where they have largely opted to ignore advertising.”
Ultimately, Rucker thinks advertisers will have more success with the Internet if they think carefully about their overall approach. “Brands need to be much more strategic in how they advertise, such that they are part of content that hits consumers when they are decisional about the category or the product.”
Still, AdKeeper could be a winner. “It’s an interesting one to watch,” Rucker said. “The initial numbers released on click through increase are encouraging, but ultimately you have to follow how many consumers a) attend to ads in the first place, b) want to save their ads. Watching the demand for this play out in the market is key.”