The Big Bad Banner Ad
There’s nothing I love more than browsing the net and admiring all the beautiful big box ads that follow me around on every page. In fact, I really think seeing various leaderboard ads (those long banner ads at the top of the page) make webpages more unique and give me a reason to return; I’m SO curious who will show up there next to have my undivided attention. Who will have the honour to count me as an ‘impression’ for their metrics?
These are the thoughts of mad person. No one in their right mind enjoys banner ads when they’re browsing the net. They end up being a necessary evil, because they help sites get money and allow us to keep having free access to whatever we’re viewing.
What I think is SO hilarious though, is when I’m talking with people about banner ads and their effectiveness, I always ask: when’s the last time you clicked one?
Because, the VAST majority of us, (and by vast, I mean all) don’t click on them. We find them more invasive and petty than we do valuable. AND YET, every one of those ‘impressions’ we represent are ending up on someone’s report as a success metric.
A friend of mine recently shared this story from the NYT about Chase Financial, who at one point investing in an ‘Ad Placement Network’ where Chase’s banner ads are served on thousands of different websites selected based on the content of said site. It makes sense in theory, because if you’re targeting me for something, for example, technology related, you can follow me around the net with your ads by serving it on tech sites.
The problem Chase ran into was their ads were being shown beside some VERY suspect content. When they investigated, they found that they were serving their ads on over 400,000 different sites – many of which were not vetted by humans eyes.
So Chase pulled their ads from almost all those sites, choosing instead to serve their ads on only 4,000 human-approved sites.
And guess what happened to their performance on these ads?
They had the same performance on these 4000 sites as they had on 400,000. And while Chase seems to be pleased with this, choosing to view the other 396,000 sites as ‘ineffective’, I choose to read between the lines:
BANNER ADS DON’T WORK!
It kills me to read articles like this and hear stories about the ‘millions of impressions’ served for various clients, because who actually cares? You’re telling me yourself that you NEVER click on these ads (if you even see them), and yet you’re spending TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars on these units every year. (Yes, I understand they CAN act as a form of awareness, but so can a lot of more valuable mediums.)
It’s crazy, and we need to stop.
My challenge is this: take that Big Bad Banner Ad budget and invest it in another medium called Facebook, targeting the same demographics and watch your KPI targets get met.
You literally have nothing to lose except for the money you’re wasting on digital banners.