November 8, 2023
June 1, 2022

Banner Blindness: Your Audience Is Ignoring You

Ben Trenda

I was asked to write a blog post about banner blindness. So I thought about writing about how the average human is being served >1,000 ads every single day. And I thought about writing about how there are way too many ads on every page of the Internet. But if you're reading this--or if you're just a real human in the world--you already know these things. So how did we get here?


Every content owner: Hey brands, do you want to put ads around my content?

Brands: I want all the ads.

Brands to creative agency: Crank out some ads.

Creative agency: I wanted to make art and win awards; now I make banner ads. Banners don't win awards. Here's your banner ad.

Brands: Thanks. Can you make that in 14 sizes?

Creative agency: It will cost you.

Brands: Hey human, here's an ad. Buy my stuff.


Brands: Hey human, here's that ad again (& again & again). Buy my stuff.


Brands: Hey content owner, your content doesn't perform. I will bid less for ad space.

Content owners: Hey, writers and producers, most of you are fired. Let's hire freelance writers to write listicles. BTW, can bots write content?

Also content owners: Hey humans, pay for content.

Rich humans: Okay, I'll pay for *some* content, but not most.

Most humans: I'll just spend my time on social media, which is still free.


What's wrong with the above?

Brands, your ads suck.


Imagine this scenario: You want to make new friends and romantic acquaintances.

You to interesting looking person #1: I'm amazing. Date me.

Human you are interested in:

You to interesting looking person #2: I'm amazing. Date me. (It's a numbers game, right?)

Human you are interested in:


Moral of the story? What you say matters, and how you say it matters too.

Your ads suck.

People don't want to meet people who act like ads. People don't want to buy stuff from brands who serve ads.

So don't serve ads. Serve content that earns the attention of real humans.


After all the supply chain optimization, the algorithms, the brand safety, and so much targeting that most actual humans are now aware of targeting--after basically the entire lumascape has done its thing--you are still serving a creative message to a human being. And most of the time, your ad sucks.


I was asked to write a blog post about banner blindness. The above is what I wrote.

Banner blindness is not a math problem. It's not a targeting problem. It's partially a clutter problem, but that's not the primary factor.

Banner blindness = your ad sucks and all the other ads that real humans have seen today also suck. Humans no longer want to see your ad, much less do business with the brands who are annoying them all day long. You can trick them into clicking, and you can use algorithms to decide whether the button should be blue or red. But at the end of all the tech BS, you are serving a creative message to a human being, and your ad sucks.

Do better.

Yeah, I know. That's not going to happen.

But let me dream about that for a moment. Imagine if all the ads that were being served on the open web were good ads...

Humans would see good ads and sometimes buy stuff from those brands.

Brands would make more money.

Brands would gladly pay higher rates for ad space.

Content owners could produce more and better content with well-paid staff.

We humans could continue to consume most content for free.

Normal humans: That actually sounds totally reasonable.

Ad industry: Cookies! Gimme cookies! Need more targeting!


If you've read this far, it's because you care. You don't want your ads to suck. And you are probably among the very few whose ads don't suck. You're creating content. Beautiful content that real humans find value in.

Deliver content instead of ads. Your best content. That's a message we can get behind.

Banner Blindness
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