UX and the Evolution of Advertising

January 22, 2015 • Business Strategy, Design • Views: 6138

Advertising. Many have developed a sort of Love Hate relationship with this word…I know I have. No one likes having their time be robbed by advertisers. It might be hard to believe now, but there was a time when people lived peacefully… a time when people were not bombarded by advertising everywhere they look.

Advertising first started to gain momentum in the 1800s, originally seen as a nice-to-have rather than crucial to brand survival. And then it went overboard. It evolved into an incessant stream of Buy this! Book now! Click here! Call us! Visit us! Follow us! Each and every company seemed to be competing for consumer attention. In 1998, the average consumer saw 3,000 marketing messages per day. Clearly, the advertising model was as such: “Shout at your audience until they listen”

Needless to say, up until about 10 years ago we lived in the era of highly aggressive advertising. Digitally speaking, it was common to visit websites and be attacked with flashing banners, interruptive pop up windows, and randomly placed loud splash pages selling as many unrelated products and services as possible. From a UX perspective, this type of advertising was deeply hated. Why? It interrupts the users experience, causes frustration, and distracts from the task at hand. Just to hammer home the point of how ineffective this method is: Banner Blindness; people subconsciously developed the skill to focus on the main content of the website and became willingly blind to banners.

But as technology rapidly advanced, so has the way brands communicate and reach their consumers. With Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc…  brands can reach their desired demographic in a smarter way without being interruptive. Time is the most precious commodity, which makes relevancy the most important aspect of successful advertising. If an ad or a promotion is relevant and placed in a relevant context, then the user will not feel like his/her time is wasted. They might even feel value gained.

So what does this mean for User Experience?

Use pop up windows wisely: Show it at the beginning of a user entering the site. Then never again. Allow for a quick and easy exit (for example a close icon or more polite “No Thanks” button). Also, set the pop up to appear a minute or so after the user visits the site. The user will be able to get an understanding of what he site is about before being presented with a pop up. It makes it more contextual.

Targeted advertising on social media: Go where your users are. I won’t add anything here as there is a wealth of information on the internet, but this site is quite useful:  http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/10/14/strategies-design-marketing-campaigns/

Use a single call to action. Don’t confuse your users with too much choice. It should be simple and concise. Less is more!

Keep contact information on a contact us page, or footer of a site. And nowhere else. Because no, we don’t need a few screaming pixels saying “Call us!” unless you are an IT support service.


Add value to actions where possible. Eg: If the user is prompted to sign up for a newsletter through a popup, also state some benefits such as “sign up now and receive 10% off your next order” or “ Stay up-to-date with the latest news and trends delivered directly to your inbox”.

And so, I will end with a quote by Herbert Simon, 1971:

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

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2 Responses to UX and the Evolution of Advertising

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