Banner advertising: alive and clicking
By Paul Entin, as Posted On I-Advertising, 9/16/99 (Edited to make sense for non-list members)
As a media buyer and as a representative of a Web site that sells banner advertising, content sponsorships and e-newsletter advertising, I've discussed and written about the role of banner advertising frequently. And given this issue comes up every few weeks on the list in some form, I thought I'd offer a few big picture thoughts:
Let's compare banners to billboards for a minute. When you're driving 70 mph on the Interstate (65 where I live), you're probably trying to get somewhere and your goal certainly is not to look at all the billboards. But if you're hungry, you're pretty happy to see a billboard for a diner or even a McDonald's directing you to the next exit. With an empty stomach, the information is suddenly relevant.
Online, people are also trying to either get somewhere or find some piece of information and their goal is certainly not to look for banner ads. But if the banner ad offers a link directly to that piece of information for which the viewer is searching, then suddenly that banner becomes relevant. We should all remember the old saying, "People read what interests them and sometimes it's an ad."
Therefore, a benefit-oriented banner ad that speaks instantly to the target audience and is placed in front of the proper target audience can and will attract attention and help achieve your goals and objectives. For one example, Rodale Press (Men's Health, Prevention) runs banners on my client's site FitnessLink (http://www.fitnesslink.com) and their click-throughs have been as high as 12 percent.
I feel that banners have been unfairly discarded as a viable part of many marketing programs. For a long time, people with ample technical experience but little or no marketing experience were responsible for banner design and placement. When their banners failed to deliver the high returns they expected, they blamed banner advertising, rather than the banner or the site. In addition, many people signed up for free banner link exchanges and when response was below expectations, they blamed banner advertising.
Many did not consider the fact that their banners were not targeted at their audience but to a mass of surfers on every kind of site imaginable. And it's possible their banners could also be improved.
Regarding CPMs, buy based on who you are trying to reach and consider the value to you as a marketer. What's it worth to be able to pinpoint CEO's in the U.S. with HHI of $150K? If one alternative is advertising in Fortune, then you'll probably get a better deal almost anywhere online and a better tracking mechanism regardless of what the "going rate" is in CPM. Using FitnessLink again as an example, they had to raise their rates and current CPMs range from run of site at 18 to 22 as the only banner on the page.
The trend however, is as Adam stated, towards content sponsorships, which offer an added measure of credibility. FitnessLink created 4 new features to help advertisers more finely tune their buy and each feature is being sold as a content sponsorship, only one company per feature. To target women only or men only, for example, the rate translates to a CPM of 25, a very attractive rate if you're trying to reach active women or men who care about their health.
We should also remember that marketing is most effective when our messages are delivered with frequency, via multiple channels and over time. Banners may be significantly more effective when used in conjunction with sponsorships, newsletters and traditional offline advertising and PR.
Targeted email marketing via newsletters, lists and other methods will soon become an essential part of every online marketer's ad program, rather than just a hot trend. And while some marketers may be shifting dollars from banners to email marketing, they may get more impact from a coordinated program that includes both banners and email, among other vehicles.