The Right Content In The Right Place: Design and Placement of Banner Advertisement From A Psychological Point Of View

27.10.2016 Pia Jochem

“Should I click on this banner?“ Most people probably don’t think that explicitly about a simple action like this one. Although, as a matter of fact, every time we click on something because of a more or less flashy or blinking image, we judge implicitly. A judgement we make based on very specific information.

Whether a banner appeals to a person and leads to a mouse click does not only depend on its looks or content. Psychological research shows that the content is not solely decisive for click behavior but rather the interplay of the advertising message and the banner position on the one hand, as well as the motivation of the viewer on the other hand. Companies can use this understanding to their advantage in order to match their banners more purposefully to their website visitors. We will explain here how this works. But first, a quick detour through psychology:

According to the well-known “Elaboration Likelihood Model“[1], people acquire information through one of two ways before making a decision: Either centrally or peripherally. The essence of this theory is this: Depending on the route, people use different kinds of information to pass their judgement. If contents are processed through the central route, people think very precisely about what they see. Individual arguments are analyzed very well and information is verified carefully. This means that the claim or specific product advantages that are displayed on the banner, are very carefully inspected. When taking the peripheral route, though, the judgement is rather based on superficial indications. When talking about advertising banners this would, for example, be the appearance of the banner or brand popularity.

 

 

But how do you know whether people look at the displayed information rather flippantly or in greater depth?

Among other things, one’s motivation determines what kind of information will be processed in each situation. People with a high motivation process what they have seen centrally. Generally, people are motivated to take a closer look at something if the topic is relevant, interesting, or urgent for themselves. This means that banners, which match the interest of a person in the right moment, are generally looked at more often and in more detail. Here, it can pay off to point out product features or to present reasons. On the other hand, though, this also means that a banner that has little relevance to the user would trigger less motivation and be processed peripherally. In this case the banner only deserves a quick look – and has to gain attention in a different way.

How can you put this knowledge into practice?

If you know the future placement of the advertising material, there are some basic guidelines regarding the design. If the banner is placed on pages where it can be expected that people don’t spend a lot of time to check information in detail, the banner should be designed rather bold and simple. Some examples for this are home screens or editorial environments that invite to rummage and scroll rather than checking information in detail. Since a banner is processed peripherally in this case, people are led by their feelings rather than rational arguments. Banners that contain a clear and simple message and offer a rather visual charm otherwise (such as an attractive presentation), are recommended here.

If a banner is presented on a page with very specific information that is of high interest for a person, it is more likely that information is examined more precisely. The same goes for pages that go after specific goals. Example here are product research or specific content pages. Here, it makes sense to mention arguments or to present particular product advantages. It is important, though, that the promoted information is relevant for the user. Someone, who is researching current fashion trends at brigitte.de can most likely be reached by a banner of a fashion brand. At the same time, someone who is looking for game information at kicker.de, might not even pay attention to a banner at all.

Conclusion: In the end, there is no general rule to follow in order to place all banners pragmatically. The most important thing is to empathize with the person that would be on the website in that moment. You can only be successful here if you know the interests and motivation of the user and then present accordingly relevant information.

 

[1] Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.