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.
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