While it’s fashionable to talk about ‘banner blindness’ when it comes to online ads — and the phenomena does exist — the fact is that your peripheral vision can’t help but scan the whole page.  You do SEE the ads.

The problem is that most ads present almost nothing worth looking at.  There’s no reason to go from merely seeing the ad to consciously looking at it.

And although this dynamic isn’t as bad on Facebook, it’s still there.  People will sweep there eyes over the right-hand side of the page occasionally, but if the sweep presents nothing of immediate interest, it’s back to reading the newsfeed.

Want proof of this?

There’s a reason that Facebook decided to start including certain types of ads directly into the newsfeed, and it wasn’t because the right-hand side ads were working so darn well!

The solution? Present images that compel a closer look.  Better yet, present images that compel further reading. Here’s an example of an ad that should, but doesn’t do that:

Giraffe Ad

So… they’re asking you to vote to save an adorably cute baby giraffe.  More than likely, they’re asking animal lovers to help save the giraffe by doing nothing more than making three clicks.

So this should be an easy sale, right?

Except that the image of the giraffe isn’t nearly compelling enough, and the headline, which asks for the help, probably never gets read. Here’s how I’d fix this:

Improved Giraffe Ad

First, notice that I eliminated background clutter of leaves and stuff. The image is too small for a cluttered background. Plus a black background will help the image pop.

Next I pushed the giraffe head to one side so I could use a word bubble.

Then I made the word bubble a visually prominent color, and put some intriguing, not fully contextualized words into the giraffe’s mouth.  I want the color and the talking giraffe to draw your eye, and the words to compel you to read the headline and copy to understand the “story” behind the image.

Why is this so important?

Because I know my ad will never get more than a fraction-of-a-second’s glance from Facebook Users, and that if it can’t turn that glance into a look, and turn that look into a read-through, it’s sunk.

Are your ad images standing up to this same test?

Or are you hoping that banner blindness doesn’t exist on Facebook?