A Suck article on "the death of banner ads"
April 24, 2001 5:51 PM   Subscribe

A Suck article on "the death of banner ads" (complete with humorous acknowledgement of the fact that their parent company relies on ads) made me think about the online advertising that I enjoyed or followed up on. What are some effective ads you remember?
posted by jed (42 comments total)

 
The Macromedia flash widget on Webmonkey stands out as a great example of placement, because people on the site are often using Macromedia products and the ad provides an easy way to jump to a product on their site. An article on Kuro5hin entitled "Making Ad Banners Suck Less" talked about adding community sites to rotations to encourage people not to simply ignore all banners. Glassdog and Badmoon both have interesting sites in place of commercial ads, but I've yet to see a site that mixes the two.
posted by jed at 6:01 PM on April 24, 2001


The only one that sticks out in my mind is Netflix. I heard about it from some friends, but then it left my mind. Then I saw an ad at Ain't It Cool News saying I could get $10 off Netflix membership, so I checked it out and it looked pretty sweet.

So now I'm a Netflix member, and I totally love it.
posted by kcalder at 6:21 PM on April 24, 2001


Wouldn't it be great if it turned out that the measurability of banner ads produced good data -- if we could conclude that the problem isn't banner advertising, but advertising itself? I just can't remember the last time I made a purchasing decision based on a television ad, for instance.
posted by precipice at 6:47 PM on April 24, 2001


I think it needs to be said that one of the most effective Internet-based advertising campaigns was for the horribly bad The Blair Witch Project. Bogus sites, building the mythology, creating interest.

Do all advertising ventures have to be these forays into fantasy, like Blair Witch and the recent ESPN fake-girl site? Not at all.

What they do represent, is that the most successful Internet based advertising requires a Hell of a lot more work than a simple banner ad. You have to engage your audience and hold its interest. Just sticking up an animated banner ain't gonna cut it.

Imagine that. A medium almost entirely devoted to interactivity requires a certain level of interactivity to make money. Whodathunkit?
posted by Spanktacular at 6:51 PM on April 24, 2001


Precipice: you have my vote for Comment of the Week--at least. That would be amazing if banner ads, and Web advertising in general, brought down not just banner ads but all advertising as we know it.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:53 PM on April 24, 2001


Damned socialists. There ain't a damned thing wrong with making an honest buck. We're talking advertising here, not SPAM.
posted by Spanktacular at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2001


If people could measure clickthroughs on print ads, I'd guess that a large number of magazines would go out of business. There's no tangible link between seeing an ad and buying a product, unless you immediately rush out and buy the product. What most successful advertising does is plant the idea of a product in your mind, and then maybe you'll purchase the product a month later.
posted by jed at 7:12 PM on April 24, 2001


Banner ads are a waste of bandwidth, usually are annoying deisgned animated gifs, and have low click-through rates. Considering I didn't agree to view ads to view the webpage on a public server I see nothing wrong in blocking them or hoping for their death. I'm blocking most banner ads with my hosts file, but am very interested in the new software adbusters is endorsing.

The sad part is I'm willing to pay to get access to certain content, but even if so-and-so had my $10 a month they'd still be pushing ads. Look at an average magazine.

Considering there's no obligation to tell the truth in ads, aside from laws that seem aimed only at gross offenders they provide no usable information on the product, just more keep up with the trends/Jonses mentality.
posted by skallas at 7:22 PM on April 24, 2001


Not one. Not one single one. I'm serious - this was a medium doomed from the start.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 7:28 PM on April 24, 2001


Precipice, most advertising we see has the goal of "branding," which is different than a call to action, or direct response. Because of this, you aren't supposed to consciously see the connection between the ads you're exposed to and what you purchase. But we all make purchasing decisions based on brand, whether we like to admit it or not.
And I just read jeds post, which makes this one kinda redundant.
posted by Doug at 8:15 PM on April 24, 2001


I went to the Banner Ad Museum, linked from that article, and looked at their "Best of 2000" winners.

As someone who spends much of his working and (too much) leisure time on the web, I didn't recognise or remember a single one.
posted by normy at 8:21 PM on April 24, 2001


As a mac-hugger, I've always enjoyed the particular irony of being bombarded with banner ads that tell me that my "internet connection is not optimized" in that special "win32 apps don't need a graphic designer" dialog motif. I never clicked on it, but it made me laugh without fail.
posted by machaus at 8:22 PM on April 24, 2001


If web publishers don't make a stand and sell "branding" I think the whole thing is gonna be f-cked.
posted by owillis at 9:10 PM on April 24, 2001


Web publishers have to exert some (a lot of) control over what the banner clicks through to as well. Basic rule - never click through to a bigger ad, an index, or a splash page. In my old job we built the sites, the banners on the sites, and the mini-sites that went "behind" the banners, and we had good click through to the things we advertised once we figured out the problem. That kind of all-over control is rare, but if you can get it together with a client it can work well.

The biggest problem is that people were trained elsewhere to ignore the banners - it's a basic Pavlovian thing, really. but if, within a site, you never abuse your users' click throughs, if you give them an immediate payoff every time, it can build in spite of that.
posted by mikel at 9:53 PM on April 24, 2001


My question is, since all this time and money has been spent to track me and my browsing habits, with cookies, with click-throughs, via referrers, those little questionnaires I fill out to join sites, when will they actually begin using the data? When will I see a drop in inappropriate ads? Why do I still see advertisements for stock trading, sports sites, crappy magazines, Windows software, none of which interests me in the least?

The answer, obviously, is never. The reason the answer is never is because the trackability of web users is of limited usefulness, much like the American fascination with sports scores. Interesting for comparison, and you can most certainly base judgments upon them, but in the long run, a decision made using highly detailed statistics has exactly the same chance of success as one that does not use those statistics. This is because standard business operating procedure is to make a decision, then justify it with numbers, whether the decision-maker realizes this is happening or not.

In online advertising, the only two relevant facts for advertisers are a) I am a heavy web user and b) I'm male. All the other data they've gathered about me is ignored. So why gather it in the first place? To fool advertisers. It works, it really does. In the beginning, advertisers were eating up those online stats like they were candy cigarettes. Finally! Trackability!

Only it turns out, and this is no new revelation, advertisers are a stubborn, ignorant lot who claim to hire advertising agencies for their expertise, but in truth ignore their advice. What they're really buying is someone to push around. So those numbers are irrelevant: they often go against so-called instinct, against experience, against pride, against what is secretly buried in the heart of every marketing dick on the planet: A desire to just pump those ads out. Just buy as many ads as cheaply as possible and plaster the planet. Buckshot, scattershot, random shot, let them flow. Untargeted, unqualified placement, fill any hole that's empty.

So no damned wonder they're not clicked on.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:29 AM on April 25, 2001


I haven't noticed, but are there Web ads you have to click through to get to the continuation of content (a story, whatever)? That would seem to be the way to go...
posted by ParisParamus at 5:08 AM on April 25, 2001


I clicked on one today: it was the "Your Net Connection Is Not Optimized!" in a pop-up with a fake minimize/maximize/close window buttonbar. I hit the fake 'close window' within 0.2 sec. Good job guys!
posted by greensweater at 5:58 AM on April 25, 2001


No no no! I mean something you have to click on to get to the remainder of a story (or the remainder of a Web log).
posted by ParisParamus at 6:09 AM on April 25, 2001


Cluetrain thesis 74 pretty much sums it up for me: "We are immune to advertising. Just forget it". I have been 'online' for maybe 8 years, the last 4 of which might be considered heavy duty. I buy stuff online from amazon and one or two software places. Yet I cannot think of a single banner that I have knowingly clicked to even investigate, let alone actually purchased something through.

"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket" (George Orwell) - "Hermenaut's view of advertising in the real world is fascinating...
posted by RichLyon at 6:27 AM on April 25, 2001


Come on now. How many of you (admit it) have ever used Wisk to get neck dirt off your shirt collars, without even thinking about it?

We are not immune to advertising; we just posture to be immune so as not to seem like the impressionable mass that we are. Look at your desk and your clothes: If ads and marketing didn't work, you wouldn't own two-thirds of the items you currently possess.

And remember, just because MetaFilter is populated by a large percentage of holier-than-thou early-adopters doesn't mean the other 280 million Americans aren't still buying genuine Goodwrench parts because GM sponsors the right Nascar driver.
posted by werty at 7:15 AM on April 25, 2001


> "Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill
> bucket" (George Orwell) -

It's not even as real as that. At least the pigs are naturally hungry, independent of the rattling pail. Most advertising is meant to whip up artificial desires that wouldn't otherwise exist or need satisfying. An economic system that depends on such artificially whipped-up desires deserves to crash and burn.
posted by jfuller at 7:26 AM on April 25, 2001


Naomi Kline's No Logo identifies the trend whereby the more advertising a company does, the less (some people) will buy their products. But... I did buy a wide-screen sony TV the other day. It is/was crap - but it was only after the event that I realised I hadn't even analysed the desicion - "Sony's the best, right?"

Agree, Werty. I've been got at, dammit.
posted by RichLyon at 8:08 AM on April 25, 2001


werty, I absolutely AM immune to banner ads. Before I put in my killer host file (which blocks all ads), I never looked at a banner ad, and certainly never clicked on one. It's like I had WebWasher installed in my brain. It's about the content man...

You're right in saying though, that the other 280 million sheep are not saavy enough to know what a trick banner ad looks like, are not still traumatized by the commercialization of the net, and don't have their tried and true choices in online retail and purchasing outlets. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaa...

Now interstitial rich media ads...some of those are pretty cool, I must admit, but I want to be given a choice on whether or not to see them and I want to know that they aren't going to take me somewhere else or open a new window unless I click another link. (In other words, I like the play button idea accompanied by a 'take me somewhere' link)
posted by fooljay at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2001


Since no one answer my question , let me pose it again: why has no one (I think) attempted to introduce advertising which must be viewed in order to view the content on a page: content > ad > content continues? This would seem to be the only possibly workable ad content model.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:56 AM on April 25, 2001


MSNBC does it...
posted by owillis at 12:21 PM on April 25, 2001


You get this when you go to their business news page
posted by owillis at 12:22 PM on April 25, 2001


The thing is, even for the unsavvy, after the first time they click on a disguised banner ad, they won't again. Ever. Again.

So, like, wow, you've made your .00002 cents from the click through, and the site being advertised has now gotten an eyeball whose owner will do everything in her or his power to <booming echoey voice>Never Visit The Site Again</booming echoey voice>.

I mean, duh. I'm nowhere near a qualified marketer, but it's reasonably obvious that if you want customers to come back, you don't piss them off by tricking them to visit you.

There's no small amount of legitimate banner advertising out there, and it doesn't bother me. I mean, if I'm visiting a video game oriented site, and I see a banner ad for the Super Gold And Platinum Jam-Packed Full Of Wonderful Stuff That's Been Free Online For Years And We're Just Putting It In A Box To Justify The Continuing Charge Of $39.99 (CDN) For Halflife, then great. Maybe I'll finally decide to buy it and click through.

On the other hand, if I'm at some community forum place and there's a dialog box that tells me my Internet connection isn't optimized (gasp!) and I click on it, and I'm at some stupid pointless site that offers me nothing except an opportunity to fill out even more demographic information, I'm never going to click such a thing again.

Bah.
posted by cCranium at 12:54 PM on April 25, 2001


OWillis, I'm not sure MSNBC is doing what I described; I would be interested if anyone could point to the linear model I've been trying to describe.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:18 PM on April 25, 2001


Paris, do you mean something like this DHTML example? [February thread]

I think it does make sense, certainly no more or less sense than using something like Amazon Honor System pages as a required referrer. There will undoubtedly be instances where it's tried. It will also lead to lower viewership.
posted by dhartung at 1:58 PM on April 25, 2001


Actually, no. That one is kind of clever, but I think its cleverness is negated by its annoyingness.

In any case, on third thought, I think nothing will work...
posted by ParisParamus at 2:12 PM on April 25, 2001


I'm just wondering when the second step kicks in -- when advertisers say that since my seeing an ad for, say, Ballpark Franks on Malcolm in the Middle doesn't translate to me having any desire for Ballpark Franks, they're not going to put ads for Ballpark Franks on Malcolm in the Middle any more. I mean, either there's a purpose to blasting your brand at people, or there isn't -- I know that I take absolutely no conscious notice of banner ads any more, but you could say the same about the ads on TV; the last show I watched was, in fact, Sunday's Malcolm in the Middle, and I can't name a single product I saw advertised. Advertising certainly works wonders in some cases -- consider the beatdown Charmin delivered to competitors once Mr. Whipple showed up -- but I'm not sure that most advertising successes are quantifiable.
posted by snarkout at 2:28 PM on April 25, 2001


> why has no one (I think) attempted to introduce
> advertising which must be viewed in order to view the
> content on a page: content > ad > content continues?

If anyone ever does this to me, what's going to happen is

content > ad > [fuller leaves site, never returns]
posted by jfuller at 3:03 PM on April 25, 2001


Actually, JFuller, it's done on television, and people accept it. It's a question of the content being compelling enough.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:22 PM on April 25, 2001


No, it's more a question of there not being a billion other places you can watch the exact same show. For free.
posted by kindall at 4:11 PM on April 25, 2001


it's a question of what we're used to. people are so accustomed to no noticeable ads that if they *did* run into such a model, they *would* leave. yes, we're spoiled, but the internet is a lot different than tv, too. it's a pull technology. if every time you went to watch tv you had to hit a button to get past the ads, it would get old very quickly. in short, compelling or no, i don't think your idea will work.
posted by pikachulolita at 4:13 PM on April 25, 2001


THE WEB IS DOOMED.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:16 PM on April 25, 2001


Paris, the advertising model you're describing is the exact opposite of what is currently (or until recently) in place. Advertisers refuse to see the web as a "branding" medium. They want people to click on their banners because they were interested in what the banner had to offer, rather than because they were forced to. It also makes it more difficult to track the performance of the banner.
What you're suggesting will occur when people see the web has branding ability. I don't know if it does, but if they THINK it does, there'll be more stuff like that.
It's the refusal to see banners and online ads as branding devices that really killed internet advertising. There is no reason for an advertiser to place ads on Salon, lets say, because it is just too broadly defined a site. Sites like, "FlyFishing Daily" had a better chance, because direct response banners would actually WORK on that kinda site, and be seen by a relevant target.
posted by Doug at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2001


Paris, the advertising model you're describing is the exact opposite of what is currently (or until recently) in place. Advertisers refuse to see the web as a "branding" medium. They want people to click on their banners because they were interested in what the banner had to offer, rather than because they were forced to. It also makes it more difficult to track the performance of the banner.
What you're suggesting will occur when people see the web has branding ability. I don't know if it does, but if they THINK it does, there'll be more stuff like that.
It's the refusal to see banners and online ads as branding devices that really killed internet advertising. There is no reason for an advertiser to place ads on Salon, lets say, because it is just too broadly defined a site. Sites like, "FlyFishing Daily" had a better chance, because direct response banners would actually WORK on that kinda site, and be seen by a relevant target.
posted by Doug at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2001


One more time....Nah.
posted by Doug at 4:54 PM on April 25, 2001


Speaking of memorable banner ads ... this is the first one I've seen in quite a while that made me laugh out loud.
posted by dhartung at 10:20 PM on April 25, 2001


Actually, the content->ad->content model is sort of in effect. MSNBC, for instance, offers a paragraph of content, a big fat ad, and (just below the 800x600 fold) the rest of the content.

Yes, it's all on one page, and yes it's pretty much just as easy to mentally block the ad, but it's like a little commercial break in the page flow.

C|Net's annoying flash banners do something similar, except they flow the text around the sides of the ad, I think.
posted by cCranium at 5:49 AM on April 26, 2001


Doug, I'm not sure I am describing branding, which seems to me to be advertising a name without a specific product. But you definitely have a point in that recognition may be the only reasonable goal--not clicking through to a sale. I mean, impulse buying, in effect, is what such ads are aiming for, but who buys software, or whatever, on impulse? If I want something non-impulse, I'll do a Web search for it, or have the company's/product's name already in my head and go to the store or the company's site. Impulse buying is for little, inexpensive products, not stuff which requires shipping...
posted by ParisParamus at 6:05 AM on April 26, 2001


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