Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Man vs. Banner Ad

The video below is a lighthearted look at something quite serious to online marketers--the poor quality and annoyance of online banner ads.

Banners ads have become cheap, and I mean that in two senses of the word--CPMs are ridiculously low, and many of the ads are perceived by consumers as annoying, seedy, and gaudy. This makes banner ads easy to ignore, or in the words of this funny video: "Most banner ads aren't harmful to humans, provided you leave them alone and avoid making direct eye contact."

Studies show that consumers hold banner ads in very low esteem. Late last year Nielsen reported that consumers find banner ads the second least trustworthy ad medium; only mobile banner ads were seen as less trustworthy.

I think the reason for this is pretty easy to discern; just look at Yahoo's home page tonight. Yahoo is the second most trafficked site on the Internet, and their home page should be a spot for high-quality brands to advertise. Instead, the home page currently has banner ads for online degrees and free credit reports.

Why would a marketer wish to have their brand promoted in this same spot in the future, after visitors have been educated to ignore, or worse yet, to think poorly of the products advertised here? It's a little like placing an ad at the back of a local publication among the pages where consumers expect to find dating and phone sex ads.

Speaking of which, Web sites and online ad networks may be well advised to take a cue from Manhattan Media, which purchased the New York Press and immediately banned sexually-oriented ads from the publication. The company noted that while it would “initially take a financial hit by dropping sex ads...the long-term growth prospects for this widely circulated newspaper (will) dramatically increase as it is remade into a reputable publication.”

High-quality sites would be better off to reserve prime online real estate for high-quality brands, even if this means accepting lower ad rates in the short-term. The practice of providing inventory to the highest bidder--no matter how chintzy the product, brand or creative--is degrading consumer perception of online ads.

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