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Fifteen years ago today, the banner ad as we know it was born. On October 27, 1994, HotWired.com hosted ads from Volvo, AT&T, MCI, Club Med, Zima (!) and 1-800-Collect.
Frank D’Angelo, founder and partner of CL&S, the ad agency behind a few of the ads, writes on Ad Age today that one of the banners reached an astounding 78% click-through rate.
Click-through rates have declined since. So has the banner’s relevance.
ComScore now says only 8% of Internet users account for 85% of all clicks on banners. Worse yet, most of those clickers are poorer and less educated than everyone else on the Internet.
At first this was bad news for publishers because — whoops! — over the past 15 years, they’d convinced advertisers click-through rates were a good way to tell if readers were engaging with their ads.
But the death of the click — and the banner — is actually good news.
It’s forcing advertisers and publishers to re-think what makes a good online ad. We’re happy about this, because let’s face it, the banner is a lousy form of advertising. Let us count the ways:
- It can’t tell a story.
- It can’t be engaging without being interrupting and obnoxious.
- It’s scalable, but doesn’t feel “premium” in the way the back of a magazine can.
- It’s dependent on clicks.
- It’s loaded with baggage from the Web’s early spam-infested days.
So what other kind of new ads units evolved out of the economic collapse of the past 18 months try to solve all those same banner problems? Are they as innovative?