Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

Banner Blindness and My Dream of Marketing

I have gotten my brain snagged on the idea of “Banner Blindness” thanks to this study. Wikipedia defines Banner Blindness thusly:

Banner blindness is a phenomenon in web usability where visitors on a website ignore banner-like information.
The term “banner blindness” was coined by Benway and Lane[1] as a result of website usability tests where a majority of the test subjects either consciously or unconsciously ignored information that was presented in banners. Subjects were given tasks to search information on a website. The information that was overlooked included both external advertisement banners and internal navigational banners, e.g. quick links.

There’s also a fancy science-y study here.

These are triumphant sets of findings for me because I love marketing and dislike permission-less advertising. As I was saying on Friday, I think banner ads are, in some ways, like the panhandling homeless of the Internet. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but after ten years of city life I have gotten very good at recognizing and ignoring panhandlers without even looking directly at them. It is the same with banner ads, and these studies show that I’m not alone.

This fits into my greater marketing worldview as well. You see, I am forming a dream of a business life that includes no permissionless marketing. By this I mean that everyone a business contacts asked to be contacted by that business. I might be the only person interested in such a thing, and if I am I guess I will eventually go broke and have to live under a bridge, but at least I’ll have given it a shot.

Here’s an example of what I consider to be permission-less marketing: mass texting. I get so irritated when people mass text me. My musician friends constantly do this to their fans. I’m always complaining about it. In fact, I’ve complained about it so often that I recently got a spam text from a friend of mine, followed by a second text to explain to me personally that it wasn’t spam. I guess that’s progress.

What irritates me most about mass texting is that I’m stuck. Once you have my number in your phone there is no way for me to stop you from lumping me in with everyone else in your contact list and spamming me about this or that without tracking you down and deleting my number. At least with email there are filters and such that I can use on my end, though I prefer it when your newsletter comes with an unsubscribe link.

I think that a newsletter without an unsubscribe link is like a skydiver without a parachute.

Maybe I’m just self-centered, but I think that as a business or as a person, your friends or your clients are precious and you should take care not to annoy them or waste their time, even if they’re used to it.