Category Archives: banner ads

Why banner ads are ugly

Some people aren’t keen on banner ads because they clutter up web content for consumers and have low response rates for marketers. They work, but making them work is a science. This is why we were elated when AOL announced Project Devil in October 2010 — a new ad format that would prettify banners, take up a full third of a web page, and put the editorial “stuff you want to read” in the remaining two-thirds as seen in the image above. The ads were both bigger but less obtrusive; cleaner, like a magazine layout; and able to hold several components including video for just a single advertiser. If it worked, the reading consumer would see less clutter and the advertiser would win more splash — both parties win!

Alas, Business Insider reports Devil Ad sales are down in Q1. AOL’s overall audience is down too, sliding in the U.S. from 60 million monthly uniques when Devil Ads launched in October 2010 to 41 million today, according to Quantcast. The ads cost much more than regular banners, about $48 CPM vs. the $2 to $4 CPM smart buyers can get through ad exchanges or ad networks. Apparently a 12x price increase didn’t offset the beauty and functionality of digital ads that don’t get in your way.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

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Page and clean coal not found

Clean energy is a controversial topic; it’s easy to say you don’t like coal, but coal is powering about half the juice running through your office or home at this instant. Regardless of your position, Crispin Porter + Bogusky strikes a chord for the Alliance for Climate Protection by placing anti-coal banners on web 404 pages.

Brilliant media buy matching a web user’s disappointment over not finding a web page with a PR spin. Via Brian Morrissey.

Secret to online targeting: Hello, neighbor

One of the great myths of online advertising is that publishers can accurately dissect the demographics of a given web site’s users. Quantcast uses cookies and comScore uses research panels, but all major online metrics companies monitor only a fraction of the millions of web sites that consumers actually consume. And even of sites they do measure — how do they know who you are, at the PC screen? Or if it is you or your spouse or kid or the dog somehow perched by the home office desk pawing at the keyboard?

David Honig suggests that the simplest way to improve online ad targeting may be to recognize the relationships between similar consumers. He wrote in OMMA Magazine that AT&T Labs Research and NYU ran a study in 2004 looking at response rates from telephone “network neighbors,” or people who communicate with each other frequently:

“If they found one network neighbor to have responded to a particular direct mail offer, then sending the same offer to his network neighbors resulted in a three- to fivefold lift above any targeting technique not informed by this network-neighbor data.”

OK, the study used phone networks and direct mail, but put the media formats aside for a moment. This is an amazing finding, if you think about it. These consumers had nothing else in common except that they communicated with each other regularly via the telephone; when direct mail hit them, they tended to act like a clone of their friendly counterpart. The researchers called this “homophily,” in which people attract friends with similar interests who like the same products or causes — and have the same Pavlovian responses.

Honig suggests this approach of mapping “neighbors” online for ad targeting may eventually replace demographic targeting; rather than pitching an ad for diapers to women ages 35-44 with children and HHI above $100k, you’ll serve the ad for diapers to friends of women who have recently bought diapers. Birds of a feather shop together.

Photo: Estherase

Touché PHD: What’s black and white and red all over?

Ah, aggressive design. Now creative shop Touché! PHD has found a way for banner ads on web pages to turn the surrounding editorial copy shades of red as you mouse over it. You can see the result above — the ad for a gas service (um, we think, it’s in French) begins to visually expand into the actual news copy someone is trying to read.

Clever. We just don’t think it will catch on. Since 99.86% of online readers ignore banner ads, this visual gimmick risks ticking off that large majority — in a misguided effort to lift the 0.14% of consumers who tend to click through.

Nothing wrong with bright advertising creative. Just please, consider the adverse impact on those who don’t wish to respond. Via Steve Hall at AdRants.

From Norway: Live, on-the-fly web banner ads

We once knew a marketing director for the Republican National Committee who boosted direct mail response rates by adding recent news about “those awful Democrats” to each week’s mailing.

Now, web banner advertisers are trying the same thing with on-the-fly content. Brandflakes and AdFreak report web advertisers are staging teams of copywriters to monitor the web sites their banners appear on, and rewrite fresh copy for the banner ads tied to the news on those sites at the very moment. Interactive shop MediaFront of Norway creates 1,000 fresh ads over a 150-hour time frame, or a new ad every 9 minutes. Brilliant.

Banner ads think inside the box

Here’s a novel way to increase your internet campaign’s click-through rates: Remove the click through. The Brits at Tailgate have launched transactional banners in the U.S., which allow web users to click or type information right inside the little banner ad without leaving the original web page. For example, say a woman is reading iVillage and sees a banner for Oakley sunglasses. Inside the banner “box,” the ad would show options, the user could click and scroll inside the banner, hit check-out, type in her credit card info, and go right back to reading or whatever.

Tailgate claims conversion rates to sales are 3 or 4 times higher than traditional banner ads, which require clicking through to another web site. Beyond sales, this is also an interesting application for lead generation online, where consumers can easily put in “send me more info” without leaving a web page.

We do see a problem with adoption — the technology is a bit startling. “Look, honey, the web banner ad can take our credit card!” It may take a while for consumers to get comfortable and trust this easy-but-in-your-face way to buy online.