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Eye-Tracking Study: Online Ad Elements and Formats That Get Attention

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Which online ad creative elements capture consumers' attention? What types of online ad formats are most seen by visitors to content websites?

To find out, Australia's Fairfax Media conducted an eye-tracking study with 100 consumers who visit content sites regularly. Half of them were shown the desktop version of the Sydney Morning Herald, and the other half were shown the mobile version.

The researchers presented a range of different advertisements on the website pages and tracked eye movement/gaze.

Participants also engaged in an ad-recall exercise as well as a qualitative discussion about their experiences.


The researchers found that the advertisements most looked at and recalled by participants included these elements:

  • Contrasting colors/brand colors
  • Simple, concise messaging
  • Clear, uncluttered design
  • Prominent brand logos/symbols

Ads that matched brands' other online/offline campaign elements also had higher engagement/recall.

Mobile break-up ads (larger units that appear in-line as consumers scroll) are both noticed more and looked at longer than smaller mobile banner ads.

Banner (MREC—medium rectangle) ads served at the top of webpages on desktop computers receive twice as much attention from consumers than do banner ads served lower down on pages.

About the research: The report was based on data from an eye-tracking study conducted with 100 consumers who visit content sites regularly. Half of the participants were shown the desktop version of The Sydney Morning Herald, and the other half were shown the mobile version.


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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by GWB Mon Feb 27, 2017 via web

    I'm not in the camp that thinks banners are dead, necessarily, as my apps are still monetized extremely well with banners from Google admob and Airpush, but I think publishers and advertisers alike will be smart to look at everything from video to virtual reality if they want something more out of their mobile advertising. Banners, no matter how you cut it, can only do so much today.

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