No one likes banners.
They are not as sexy as “native advertising” opportunities. Although native advertising is a little bit like gluten, no one really knows what that means.
Banners are not as effective as search marketing. And when we rave about social media and mobile, display advertising is seldom part of that equation (although they are present in both).
Display ads are more of an afterthought. Sausage factory agencies churn mediocre banners out to keep junior designers busy.
But here is the disturbing thing:
Banners still account for 32% of online ad spent. Over one-third of online media investment is going to a format no one could care less. How can that be?
Main reason is laziness. Lazy marketers substitute lack of great idea by producing mediocre or lackluster display advertising to just fill the media space. Lazy agencies do not put any creative thinking behind banners and just do the bare minimum standard static formats.
So banners are not really dead, majority of them just looks really bad.
In last couple of years there has been plenty of innovation within online display advertising. Unfortunately many still live in 90´s banner advertising and have not really recognized the opportunities banners have. NEWSFLASH: banners can and should still play a role in your online advertising. Here are three reasons why:
1. Banners can be more relevant & effective
Thanks to real-time bidding and retargeting, we are able to catch the user based on their behavior. Within right amount of video, search, social media and display advertising we can have relevant message to our audience at the right time throughout their whole digital journey. Banners are not anymore random colorful announcements to buy Viagra, but can truly add value to the consumers based on their online usage.
There are naturally still some growing pains within some shady ad networks and disturbing retargeting, but mainly the future of online display looks more optimized and effective.
2. Banners are now more flexible
It used to be pain-in-ass to do really kick-ass rich media banners. They cost a lot and needed extra work and multiple rounds with media outlets. You had to mess with Flash and eventually they would not work in mobile devices. Nowadays you have highly innovative ad units straight off the shelves, which work in any device. You do not need to limit yourselves only standard formats anymore. You can innovate more, while still being able to use the reach of ad network.
3. Banners are now more innovative
At the end of the day, it is the creativity you put onto the table, which separates the great brands from mediocre ones.
I agree that banners are the print ads of the digital.
Good creative print ad still works. It gets noticed. It sparks emotion. It makes you think.
That is the first goal for banner as well. With digital you can take it to the next level. You can surprise, delight and interact with the consumer in a way that static ad never can. Just because majority of banner ads are done really badly does not mean they could not be done well. For passionate creative display ads provide great opportunity to flex creative muscle. Just look at this example connecting banners to real-time:
I also recommend watching this “behind-the-scenes” clip about creating the above Nike Phenomenal Shot. Important quote is that you can create “app-like experiences within the ad”. Quite seldom that is the way we approach display advertising, although we probably should.
Online advertising is not a zero-sum game and wise marketers use multiple channels to get results. Brands need to be digital-first and comparing different formats in isolation is not really beneficial. It is about how they work together.
For example, it is not surprising in the studies that pre-rolls work better than traditional display. Pre-rolls are highly forced one-way interruption and also cost more than display (in terms of media and production). How can you compare interactive display ad unit with high engagement rate to just forcing your TVC as a non-skippable pre-roll? Well, you can´t. Pre-rolls play a role in digital marketing mix. And so do banners. And as long we spending shitloads of money to do and show them, could we make them count?
Digital-savvy brands have first and foremost strong creative ideas to catch the attention and interest of their audience. These brands are also fast to adapt and optimize their online media mix to make every dollar count.