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Long Long Ago, before Google AdWords...
October 27, 2009 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Happy Birthday, Digital Advertising!

15 years ago today, the first banner ads appeared on HotWired.com - and had a 78% click-through rate.
posted by Lutoslawski (34 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the first link:

We were given the ad specs by HotWired and it was only then that we realized banners ads were clicked on and could drive consumers to a client designation on the web. Oops! This accidental lesson sparked us to develop websites for these initial ad banner placements. Some of our clients weren't too sure they even wanted to "interact" with this new online population. Can you imagine?!

Yes. Yes I can imagine that.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:51 PM on October 27, 2009


78% click-through rate.

Some of my mobile marketing buddies are no doubt feeling a weird sensation in their trousers as they read this. Yoinks.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2009


And so the advertising arms-race continued on into the digital world. Not content with plastering shit on every available surface (e.g. the backs of public toilet cubicle doors) the dumb race continues on. The problem is there's so much noise - so many competing ads - that now they have do dumb shit like "viral" marketing.

And that's why all those banners you see now have CTR's that hover around 1.00%, if that.
posted by awfurby at 8:02 PM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Click here (on the plus symbol)                ↓
posted by idiopath at 8:02 PM on October 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


Recently I had the misfortune to use a computer that wasn't mine, and holy shit has web advertising gotten horrendous -- flash things jumping out and covering parts of the page, auto-playing video clips, random words turned into links (intelli-something), skyscrapers and banners galore. I was that much more appreciative of my own setup with an adblock filter list that I've personally been honing for years to aggressively block every last drop of that nonsense.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:04 PM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Click here (on the plus symbol) ↓
Har! That lined up on the [!] for me so I clicked it -- and I didn't choose fantastic!
posted by mazola at 8:08 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


And on HotWired's successor site, Wired.com, the October 27th edition of "This Day In Tech" chronicled... the 1931 outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease. Of course, its current owner, CondeNast is somewhat dead-tree-centric, but this is ridiculous!
posted by wendell at 8:10 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


15 years later and I don't think that I've clicked on a banner ad yet.
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 PM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, everyone hates advertising. I get it.
But damn near everything on the web is supported by advertising.
Even the ad free stuff is supported through merchandising, which makes the content an ad for the merch.

The web is a smorgasbord of all kinds of amazing cool things... and you're complaining because it doesn't look quite as nice with ads?

They're banner adds, not human rights violations.
Web authors are supposed to eat to, right?
posted by Richard Daly at 8:41 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Does this mean it was the people at HotWired who decided 468x60px should be the standard banner ad size for all eternity... ?
posted by Zephyrial at 8:45 PM on October 27, 2009


Wow, I made this post five years ago! I <3 you Metafilter.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:06 PM on October 27, 2009


Banner ad? What's a banner ad?

15 years later and I don't think that I've clicked on a banner ad yet.

I'm with you babe.
posted by pianomover at 9:10 PM on October 27, 2009


Meh, I still remember the day I first saw this exact banner ad on HotWired.

I'm likely embellishing and paraphrasing, but my response was more or less "We're fucking doomed."

Granted at the time a "web page" was a bunch of badly formatted text, and a couple of tiny, 256 color GIF images that you could actually watch download line by line over your modem.
posted by loquacious at 9:11 PM on October 27, 2009


The web is a smorgasbord of all kinds of amazing cool things... and you're complaining because it doesn't look quite as nice with ads?

Yes. Yes, I am.
posted by erniepan at 9:16 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're banner adds, not human rights violations.

No, in fact they're not banner ads, that's kind of my whole point. They are flashing, animated, audio-video multimedia presentations that overtake the entire web page. Or they are false links that lead to some bullshit ad-laden destination. If by some miracle the collective internet advertising brain trust would stick to plain non-animated graphical banners and text ads I would actually consider letting the ads through, but it seems that day has long passed.

And I don't hate them. In fact I quite love the status quo -- my web surfing experience is completely distraction- and clutter-free and is subsidized by all the people who are too ignorant to install blocking software. God bless those poor witless schlubs who put up with all the junk. Maybe it's just karmic justice for all the time wasted fixing the crapware-infested Windows boxes of people who will mindlessly click on anything and then are surprised when they have 350 things set to autorun at boot and who wonder why a computer never seems to last more than 6 months before turning to shit.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:46 PM on October 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Odd but related question|observation: I wonder if the clickthrough rate in Sao Paolo (The city that said no to advertising) is higher than in the rest of Brazil?
posted by vapidave at 11:05 PM on October 27, 2009


15 years later and I don't think that I've clicked on a banner ad yet.

Yes, I only click on banners on my site, which is quite absurde.
posted by daazofilms at 2:43 AM on October 28, 2009


I blinked and five years passed, it was only yesterday we celebrated the tenth birthday (bonus AT&T futuristic "you will" commercial links under there) wasn't it? Time flies when you're punching monkeys!
........and boy do I wanna punch them I wanna punch them right off the web
posted by dabitch at 5:26 AM on October 28, 2009


I hate banner ads... and nobody clicks on them.
Yesterday I heard on some marketing podcast that the average clickthrough rates on banner ads are now  minus (-) 0.0001something. I believe it.
posted by Mr.Roundtree at 5:37 AM on October 28, 2009


If by some miracle the collective internet advertising brain trust would stick to plain non-animated graphical banners and text ads I would actually consider letting the ads through, but it seems that day has long passed.

Yes, because people don't look at them. It was already starting to be so in 1997.

This is a difficulty, you know. It's what's killing paid content on the web, the reason why web ad rates are so much lower (an order of magnitude) than print. Eventually what will happen is that content and marketing/ads will simply become indistinguishable, with very rare exceptions, because paying people to write on the web will be something companies will be perfectly willing to do in their own direct interest but unwilling to do in the form of advertising with a measurable, >1% click-through rate. I mean, why should they bother when it's much more effective to concentrate on SEO and getting people who are already looking for you to click though? It's simply in their interest. Check out, for example, the front page of Fidelity.com, the mutual fund co. --- they've aggregated financial news from various sources and mixed it in with their own marketing and promotional material in an almost indistinguishable way, in the hope that their customers who start out swinging by to check the status of their 401k will come to use Fidelity itself as a news portal and filter, providing endless opportunities for Fido to pimp their services.

There will, of course, continue to be millions of amateurs and enthusiasts writing on their favorite topics, and many people will find this a sufficient and acceptable substitute. Such people can probably not be relied upon to be marketing-free, however, if the recent mom-blog kerfuffle is any indication. Round about 1,000 readers a day and the swag starts to appear, and being amateur enthusiasts there's no ethic of disclosure nor institutional rep at stake --- it'll be up to the individual to decide whether to diclose that they got a free supply of the product they're raving about. (New FCC rules may help, but I'm thinking enforcement on millions of blogs is going to be a lot tougher than on a few hundred radio and TV stations). Ad blocking may succeed at blocking the visible advertising, but that will not lead to the death of advertising, merely its continued evolution into something much more invisible and insidious.
posted by Diablevert at 5:50 AM on October 28, 2009


I made it this far: "Keep in mind, this was 1994; the first graphical web browser, Mosaic, was less than a year old (soon to be replaced by Netscape Explorer), and Web access? Purely dial-up, 24.4kps if you were lucky, meaning these ads took a while to load. The online U.S. population? Two million, if that."

There was never any such thing as Netscape Explorer. You mean Netscape Navigator. There was never any such thing as 24.4kbps, either. You mean either 14.4 or 28.8. You kinda lose a bit of credibility when you and your editors don't fact check things that basic in a tech history article.
posted by Plutor at 6:30 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


And that's why all those banners you see now have CTR's that hover around 1.00%, if that.

1% is not unheard of, but is unusually high. 0.1% is more common.
posted by rusty at 6:56 AM on October 28, 2009


Yeah man, nobody ever clicks on Internet ads. That's why those losers at Google are never gonna make a dime!
posted by spilon at 7:17 AM on October 28, 2009


spilon, Google (mostly) deals with text ads not banners. (Yea, I know that they bought DoubleClick).
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 AM on October 28, 2009


They're banner adds, not human rights violations.

They're also not infrequently clicks that take you right to the newest, happiest form of malware, which while it may not be a human rights violation, assuredly is a violation of good web design, good taste, and common human decency.

Web authors are supposed to eat to, right?

Telemarketers and TV advertisers are supposed to eat too. Doesn't mean I have to joyously jump to help subsidize them.

I'm not saying that the web should be marketing-free, by the way, even if such a thing were possible.
posted by blucevalo at 7:30 AM on October 28, 2009


spilon, Google (mostly) deals with text ads not banners. (Yea, I know that they bought DoubleClick).

On their own site, yes, but the AdWords network as a whole (which now also includes DoubleClick) is where the overwhelming percentage of Google's revenue comes from, and this platform is used for display ads as well as text ads.
posted by spilon at 8:27 AM on October 28, 2009


Yesterday I heard on some marketing podcast that the average clickthrough rates on banner ads are now minus (-) 0.0001something. I believe it.

In modern internet, banners click you! (How else would you get a negative click-through?)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:54 AM on October 28, 2009


I used to work at a major independent rich-media advertising maker (I don't know exactly how to describe it but our major competitor was Pointroll) but one of the astounding things I learned is that it costs around $250,000 to $500,000, depending on how many visitors there are, to run a 300x250 ad on AOL.com for a day.

I learned that because I fucked up a QA and the third party tracking didn't load properly and it was contractually possible for the client to not pay AOL.
posted by wcfields at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2009


Yesterday I heard on some marketing podcast that the average clickthrough rates on banner ads are now minus (-) 0.0001something. I believe it.

On major campaigns the click through rate is .10% as a "good" campaign. For interactive movie trailer ads with all kinds of buttons and widgets the rate may go up to .5% if placed on teen sites.
posted by wcfields at 11:03 AM on October 28, 2009


Ugh. I don't want to wish digital advertising a happy birthday; I'm too busy attending the funeral of subscription-based models. :(
posted by uptowngirl at 1:19 PM on October 28, 2009


If you want a website to continue to exist, you'll click the ads on it. Just one ad whenever you visit, no need to go nuts. One little click is like dropping a bit of change in the tip jar.

If you hate the obtrusive ads on a site, contact the owner and bitch about it.

A lot of site owners go for the aggressive campaigns out of desperation, thinking that they will bring in more clicks rather than drive more people to ad blockers. It's a slippery slope. Try suggesting they run a test month where they strip out the obnoxious ads, and replace them with some tidy AdSense units.

Just installing ad blockers and feeling smug does nothing to help either the problem or your favorite website.

Heck, I used to click the ads here all the time, until I finally ponied up the $5 for a subscription. I'd click them still, if they were visible when I was logged in. You know why? Because I like this site, and I want it to keep running.
posted by ErikaB at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2009


I don't know if I've ever bought something based on an ad, but I've clicked plenty of ads that sounded like they might lead to moments of entertainment: cement mixer trucks for sale! mystery novels! a career in forensics! dog toys! industrial cookie-producing machines! etc.

Here's something I find weird. Wikipedia has a system of editor-created banner ads that any editor can include on his or her user page to randomly promote various constructive Wikipedia sub-projects. These banner ads are animated, visually intrusive, and entirely voluntary, except that editors who dislike them have to search out how to disable them. There are almost 200 of these banners (expanding that table may slow down your browser). Here's an example of an editor page that includes Wikipedia Ads. I contribute to Wikipedia and appreciate it while being conscious of its flaws, and I sometimes have to think about why our not-for-profit community is actively reproducing a commercial system that irritates a lot of people and doesn't work very well.
posted by dreamyshade at 1:45 AM on October 29, 2009


If you want a website to continue to exist, you'll click the ads on it. Just one ad whenever you visit, no need to go nuts. One little click is like dropping a bit of change in the tip jar.

In the long term, this is just as equally useless as blocking ads. Sure, the site might get a little money in the short term, but in the long term by diluting the conversion rate you're just going to drive down the price of the ad until eventually it's not worth running at all. The advertiser ultimately doesn't really care that you clicked, they care that you buy something. People that click ads with no intention of buying anything in order to support a site are universally hated by advertisers because it forces them to throw away money down a pit. You'll find in the TOS of many ad services that the web site owner is not allowed to implore their users to click on ads for this reason.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:53 AM on October 29, 2009


I suppose this is something I would have to turn off AdBlock to understand. *hugs Firefox*
posted by msbutah at 2:58 PM on October 30, 2009


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