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Will Your Banner Be Discernable?          Print the current page
by Brian Chmielewski

A recent Internet Advertising Bureau report gauged online ad spending above US $350 million for Q1 1998. Some competitive online metrics references and industry critics allege that the IAB's raw data is inaccurate and misrepresents actual revenues by including unpaid billings and bartered deals within their calculations. While this claim may be true, we should not gloss over this 170 percent growth rate or the fact that online ad spending continues to follow a positive-flowing growth trend.

Online ad spending is still predominantly media buying-based with industry confidence resulting from a combination of factors.
  • Gartner Group's prediction that consumer sales will reach US $20 billion and that business-to-business trades are estimated in excess of US $175 billion by 2000 supports e-commercial participation today to bear the fruits of this online marketplace in the near future.

  • Contrary to mainstream reports, many advertisers are still experiencing high click-through levels from their banners, which yield acceptable ROI's.

  • Online ad reporting is improving, making targeting, analyzing and mid-campaign improvements much more practical and efficient enterprises.

The industry average click-through rate for static banner / flat .gif banner remains below 1 percent. While some banner campaigns founder, others endure disproportionate success. What elements make up the difference? Specific targeting through banner message and by location, interactivity and placement on high-traffic sites make a considerable difference.

Do you know who your audience is? Do you know who you would like your audience to be? Chances are that a simple comparison of these answers will produce some interesting conclusions. If your audience is on the Internet, then why are they not at your web site? Where do they spend their time? Find the answers to there questions and you know where to place your message. How succinct is your message? Does it clearly identify you or your product? Is it misleading? In most instances, misleading banners earn great click-through rates, but insignificant sales or lead qualification.

According to ASI Interactive, when tested against static 460 x 68 banners, interactivity increased click-through rates by 71 percent, larger ad sizes increased click-through by 44 percent, and larger ad sizes increased recall by 45 percent. This information is encouraging forward thinking web publishers to experiment with new sizes and shapes in banner development to break the 2 percent affliction. Next generation banners are implementing video and audio streaming, animation and virtual reality components to entertain surfers while enticing them to click.

Interactivity promises to unburden present limitations felt by video production experts, media developers and other out-of-the-box creative types. Yet, until a few obstacles are conquered, interactivity cannot flourish.
  • In most instances, bandwidth requirements to serve these banners makes dial-up load times unacceptable to the user and web site serving the banner. Web site owners will not want to discourage visits to their pages because a certain interactive banner quadruples load time.

  • Most banner hosts adhere to a standard for banner size requirements. Interactive banners are attempting to set their own standard, with new sizes and shapes.

  • Each interactive tool has an associated plug-in that is required to view the technology. So, if a surfer does not have the plug-in, they will not get the interactivity, defeating your efforts. It is unlikely that a surfer will navigate to the plug-in site, download the plug-in, install the plug-in, restart their computer and return to a web page simply to view a banner. As these technologies are assimilated into browser software, like Shockwave Flash is expected to be in Netscape's next browser release, interactivity will become prolific.

  • Development costs of interactive banners is steep in comparison to static .gif banners. Unlike HTML, these technologies are proprietary and not universally understood or shared.

High-Traffic Sites
Getting visibility where there is an uninterrupted current of surfers makes sense. Each of the major portals is well recognized, so you are certain to get qualified traffic to view your banner ad if you target properly. The portals are a great source to get an immediate influx in site traffic from your banner. If your web site is listed in the search results and you have an ad banner on the same page, then you have effected double the consumer awareness with each visitor.

First published in WebPromote's Sept. 1998, Vol 1 newsletter.