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Banner Bar Mysteries          Print the current page
by Brian Chmielewski

Banner advertising. What thoughts are conjured up in your mind when you see these words? Depending on your role ( advertiser, broker or host ), financial stake ( budget, commission or income )and experience with the medium, these two words can elicit drastically different emotions.

With the industry average click-through rate and CPM price declining, it's easy to assess that banner advertising is a miserable medium to participate in. Remember, we're talking in averages. For every banner ad campaign that performs poorly, there is an equal and opposite campaign to support banner bars as a successful ad medium. Many advertising banners earn unbelievable click-throughs AND sales. The simplicity of a message, a standard color scheme, targeting and free offers are a few keys to strengthen any banners' effectiveness.

All too often on the Web, a statistic with an opinion originates from one source, is picked up by subordinate sources and is eagerly transmitted for mass consumption. Could this be the curse of the 1 percent rate now associated with banner advertising? It's fair to say that banners are declining in their effectiveness, not that they are dead as a means of marketing. Maybe the novelty of the industry has worn off, forcing ad bar activity to adapt to its naturally click rate. Here are some facts about the banner advertising industry gathered from the WebCMO banner ad survey.

  • Only about 37 percent of the web businesses use online banner advertising frequently.

  • Online banner users tend be those who started their web businesses earlier, have higher volume of site traffics, have higher promotional budgets and put larger portion of their total business budgets in their promotions;

  • Generally speaking, online banner advertising has medium effects in generating traffics, generating sales and creating site images;

  • Generating traffic and generating sales are two key reasons for online banner advertising satisfaction.

  • Compared to non-banner users, banner users start their web business earlier, have higher volume of site traffic, have a greater promotional budget and spend a larger portion of their total budget on promotion.

  • 38 percent of those surveyed earned 1 percent or below click-throughs, 29 percent saw between 1 and 2 percent and 34 percent achieved above 2 percent!!!

These statistics should sound unfamiliar to you since they tend to contradict the declining confidence and prosperity of banners announced throughout the Web. For those who don't fit this profile and wish to take advantage of lower prices and less competition for marketing via ad bar technologies, engage your advertising dollars in the per-click model. Increasing numbers of advertisers and ad hosts are joining per-click networks as they vie for market share. The majority of per-click programs include creative development as part of their service and they guarantee visitors to web sites, reducing the risk associated with the CPM banner ad model.

Building a Banner
What characteristics of a banner make it successful? Performing a comparison on banners that get clicks reveals some central traits that you should place in your creative.
  • Animation: Use this sparingly. Banners that used limited animation saw results. The perception of three main action frames also worked well. Banner frames were displayed long enough to capture the entire message.

  • Message: Banners with concise messages that targeted specific audiences and banners placed in the most appropriate settings received clicks.

  • Color: Banners that abused white backgrounds and primary colors for text and color blocks performed better. The frugal use of color seemed to satisfy click-through rates as well.

  • Trickery banners ( i.e. faux pull-down menus and forms ) earned an extremely high click-through rate, but low conversions.

For those who need help building a banner, Lycos' Tripod recently added a truly unique feature for its members. Banner Builder offers members of the free service a simple four-step process to create aesthetically pleasing and functional marketing banners. Users choose from one of six banner types, adding in preferred background color, font type, text color, and even upload images to include. In only minutes users can complete the creation of a fairly decent banner, which can be immediately added to the Tripod network's banner exchange. Banner Builder's final product is not the quality that you would get from a banner designer like Gabriele Design or BannerNetworks, but the cost can't be beat. These banners are ideal to submit to banner exchange programs that you might join.

The growing popularity of the per-click industry is apparent this holiday season, as sales of the service rival opt-in direct email as the preferred choice of marketers to get their web site's message out. Another popular approach for filling out banner ad inventory is the displaying of affiliate program banners in rotation with paid advertising. Many sites feel that the added value of potential commission is well worth the free advertising that the affiliate owner receives. Something is better than nothing.

It's unclear where banners are headed. Jupiter Communications reported back in March that Java and other new technology banners are too costly to develop for most. For advertisers to embrace these new banner technologies, phenomenal click-through rates must be earned to offset this higher development cost. With a limited number of sites actually hoisting these banners into their HTML, placement and targeting become inadequate. So, in an already click-unhappy marketplace, experimentation with new tech banners is heavily governed. It is clear that many sites are experimenting with different shaped banner ads. Research on the success of these new-formed ad bars is forthcoming.

If you'd like to get guaranteed visitors to your site for the holidays, visit the uPromote's CPC traffic service.

First published in WebPromote's newsletter.