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Beat the Banner Woes          Print the current page
by Brian Chmielewski

Today's reality of banner advertising is this - for many, they are becoming less powerful as effective tools to communicate messages. And it is advertisers without household brand names and publishers with remnant inventory that bear the brunt of this trend.

So, why do Web users simply tune out banner ads that appear on web sites? Perhaps publishers are serving up less enticing areas for their advertisers. Perhaps content is improving. Perhaps users have become bored with the 468 by 60 figments that are appended to the forehead of web pages, forcing them to subconsciously block ads out. Whatever the motivation for this click-through remission, one thing is certain: advertisers are starting to take a hard look at the effectiveness of banners in reaching their Internet audience since they must now buy double the ad space to draw the same number of potential customers to their sites.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. According to a recent ZDNet report, many interactive ad agencies are advising clients not to buy space based on a publisher's asking price or even on click-through rates. Rather, they are counseling clients to bargain for deals in which they pay the publisher only for the actual customers who get shuttled to their site.

Until recently, banners have won the user's attention and their click-through with a rigidly static, or at best, multi-framed chassis. Some say it is a natural tendency for static banners to have lackluster appeal with users, likening this effect to a child with a television remote control. Once she learns how to operate the remote control, she will surf the channels until more interesting content is found. This same conscious disregard can be applied to banner ads. There are noteworthy exceptions. In the U.S., talk around the office water cooler the day after the Superbowl involves the game play, final score and television commercials. The score is often mentioned in passing and is forgotten after a few week's, but the names of advertisers who created an appealing advertising masterpiece and their creative work remains in consumer's memories.

Banners have the ability to capitalize on impulsiveness. Since banners offer their messages in a very crowded space and compete against other banners on the Web, it's tough for your message to break through solely in the banner. Impulse requires a call to action, and when there is a lot of competition for that impulse, you need to differentiate yourself and become involved in banner distribution arrangements that benefit you most.

For every report of toppling click-through rates, publishers can point to online marketing successes. Online advertisers such as Treadmillbynet and Lind-Waldock consistently earn above average click-through rates for their targeted efforts. They use keyword-triggered banner delivery to target their audience for click-through. By researching and focusing the delivery of your banners on the most targeted locations for your audience you can increase its effectiveness.

Another method for leaping the hurdle of the diminishing click-through rests on the development of more eye-catching banner ads. According to ASI Interactive, a developer of software for the interactive entertainment market, interactivity and larger ad sizes increase click-throughs and memory recall dramatically. Based on the principle that seeing, hearing and doing increases a user's recall and level of awareness with your company, highly interactive or rich media banners have proven capable in drawing eyeballs to banners and web sites. Placing rich media ads can be an erratic proposal, since only a minor fraction of sites have the capability to carry truly rich multimedia ads and most of them require browser plug-ins.

Place the onus of the banner's targeting and delivery on the publisher. CPC advertising is the best way to serve banners on quality networks and get guaranteed visitors to your site. Eliminating the problems associated with banner burn-out, paying per impression and confirming click-through rates, per-visitor performance marketing allows you to choose the number of visitors that you want to your site and delivers them.

Other alternatives include broader site sponsorship tools that integrate an advertiser's message throughout a site's content or advertising in the email newsletters of specific audiences.

First published in WebPromote's newsletter.