Differentiation of online text-based advertising and the effect on users' click behavior

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Online syndicated text-based advertising is ubiquitous on news sites, blogs, personal websites, and on search result pages. Until recently, a common distinguishing feature of these text-based advertisements has been their background color. Following intervention by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the format of these advertisements has undergone a subtle change in their design and presentation. Using three empirical experiments, we investigate the effect of industry-standard advertising practices on click rates, and demonstrate changes in user behavior when this familiar differentiator is modified. Using three large-scale experiments (N<inf>1</inf> = 101, N<inf>2</inf> = 84, N<inf>3</inf> = 176) we find that displaying advertisement and content results with a differentiated background results in significantly lower click rates. Our results demonstrate the strong link between background color differentiation and advertising, and reveal how alternative differentiation techniques influence user behavior.

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Jacques, J. T., Perry, M., & Kristensson, P. O. (2015). Differentiation of online text-based advertising and the effect on users’ click behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 50, 535–543. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.031

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