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Text Advertising Blindness: The New Banner Blindness?

Justin W. Owens, Barbara S. Chaparro, and Evan M. Palmer

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 6, Issue 3, May 2011, pp. 172 - 197

Article Contents


Text advertising is subject to the same “blindness” effects as banner advertising. Users actively ignore text advertising unless it is required to complete their task or it is perceived as not being advertising. In this study, the style and content of the text advertisements were congruent with the content and style of the website, thus minimizing saliency differences between the text advertisements and the website. Likewise, differences in participant success between the Top Ad target location and Content target location conditions indicate that users differentiate between the types of content based upon more than the formatting appearance of the content. The only way to mitigate such an effect would be to make the advertising indistinguishable from the content, which would confuse users and potentially cross ethical boundaries. In fact, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (2007) filed suit against Google for failing to distinguish between organic search results and text advertisements in the Australian Google search results pages (www.google.com.au).

For website operators and advertisers that wish to generate revenue from text advertisements on websites, it is recommended that the ads be placed close to the website content. In a common website configuration, placing text advertising on the right side of the layout appears to be detrimental to the efficacy of the advertising. Users have an expectation that the right side of the page typically includes advertising and therefore ignore this area when exploring the page content when searching for information. For instance, visitors to Google exploring the latest category of search results will likely conclude the section called “Top Links” (see Figure 17) is advertising as this region is typically associated with advertising on Google.com.

Figure 17

Figure 17. Latest results from Google.com


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