Purpose - The main purpose of this study was to determine whether users of the online social network site, Facebook, actually look at the ads displayed, (briefly, to test the existence of the phenomenon known as "banner blindness" in this website), thus ascertaining the effectiveness of paid advertising, and comparing it with the number of friends’ recommendations seen.
Design/methodology/approach - In order to achieve this goal, an experiment using eye-tracking technology was administered to a total of 20 participants from a major University in the USA, followed by a questionnaire.
Findings - Findings show that online ads attract less attention levels than friends’ recommendations. A possible explanation for this phenomenon may be related to the fact that ads on Facebook are outside of the F-shaped visual pattern range, causing a state of "banner blindness". Results also show that statistically there is no difference in ads seen and clicked between women and men.
Research limitations/implications - The sample type (undergraduate and graduate students) and the sample size (20 participants) inhibit the generalization of the findings to other populations.
Practical implications - The paper includes implications for the development of an effective online advertising campaign, as well as some proposed conceptualizations of the terms social network site and advertising, which can be used as platforms for discussion or as standards for future definitions.
Originality/value - This study fulfils some identified needs to study advertising effectiveness based on empirical data and to assess banner blindness in other contexts, representative of current Internet users’ habits.
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