There’s been a lot of chatter over the past week about banner ads. Perhaps it was spurred by the 20th anniversary of the first banner ad that took place last month. Perhaps the online ad pundits decided to take a week off from writing about fraud, transparency and measurement.
Either way, it just seems like it was time for someone to call for the death of the banner ad. You know, kind of like how 2015 will be the year of mobile. Again.
New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo blatantly declared the fall of the banner ad last week, protesting that not only are they ineffective but that they have “they have ruined the appearance and usability of the web, covering every available pixel of every page with clunky bits of sponsorship.”
Every pixel, that is, besides those taken up by his 1,200-word opus. That’s pretty hefty coverage, by the way.
Despite the claims by Manjoo — just the most recent of many — the banner ad business remains alive and well today.
Take the opinions of Manjoo’s podcasting co-host, Business Insider writer Jay Yarow. To say that Yarow disagreed with Majooo’s claims would be a bit of an understatement, and you can listen to his retort here at about the 11-minute mark.
Manjoo’s podcasting co-host wasn’t the only one to pick apart the claims of the columnist who works for a publication heavily funded by ad revenue (there were four banner ad placements on the page that displayed his column). The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Marshall followed up with his response, adding that the “banner ad might be widely disliked by journalists, consumers, publishers and even marketers, but there’s little evidence to suggest spending on banners is reducing significantly.”
But probably the best defense of the banner ad’s effectiveness came from a person whose job it is to make sure client money is spent in the method that will yield the highest return. Tim Goosmann, chief creative at agency True North, writes in AdAge that his agency continues “to design and serve online display advertising … as an integral part of any multichannel campaign.”
Through complex analytics, we know when a person first sees an ad, if and when they later used search to follow up on the message, and when they landed on the website. Deciding to visit a website didn’t just come to them in a vision. When someone purchases at retail, you don’t credit the cashier with getting him or her into the store.
Many have declared that banners are ignored and ineffective. Behavior tells a different story. We see the banner’s influence again and again. When we have stopped using banner display ads for clients, we’ve seen traffic, search and conversions plummet.
I’m tired of pundits declaring the patient dead without first bothering to check the pulse. If the data tell us otherwise, we’ll be the first to put our client’s money elsewhere.
Compiling these responses isn’t meant to pile it on against Manjoo. In fact, it’s healthy for the industry to have these conversations. They act as a forced pause, getting decision makers in the space to “check their work,” so to speak — to make sure the current tools in the box are the right ones to get the job done.
Everything must be tracked and measured to ensure continued effectiveness. Those on both the sell-side and buy-side are doing that, and the data backs up that which we already know — the banner ad is still an effective marketing tool.
Therefore, as Goosmann closes his column, “the banner lives.”