I was recently in LA to attend Digiday Agency: Retooling for the Future. In addition to hanging out at the swanky London Hotel, I spoke on panel titled “The Banner is Dead, Long Live the Banner”. Moderated by Sean X, Founder, SXC Marketing, it was lively discussion featuring myself, Oliver Duncan, Creative Director, Digitaria, Tim Leake, Global Partnership Director, Hyper Island, and Jaime Robinson, Creative Director, Pereira & O’Dell. Between the five of us, we completely solved the problems of underperforming banners.
Okay, I made that bit up. But we did manage to make some good observations, followed by some prescient ideas and wrapped it all up with a few tidy recommendations. In case you weren’t able to attend, or watch on the web, the following is a brief overview of the discussion from my viewpoint (let the other guys write their own blogs).
The banner is not dead, but it is neglected.
Banners are the red-headed stepchildren of the media world, often treated as an afterthought (“recycle my commercial into a banner”) or worse, simply regarded as a low cost alternative to other marketing options. Because banner media is relatively inexpensive, the traditional “media to production” spend ratio does not really work. Instead of lowering the production budget because the media spend is lower (compared to television for example), take advantage of that media savings and put more money into creative and production. As brands shift their media spend to more and more digital units, encourage them to get the most out of their money.
“Click Through” is not the only (or even often the best) measurement of success.
Early on, the digital marketing industry offered the Holy Grail… easily trackable advertisements. Gone were the days of not knowing if someone was watching your commercial or reading your print ad… with banners you will know every time your ad resonates with the consumer by measure click-through. The problem… it doesn’t really work that way. Yes, you know if a user clicks through or interacts with your ad, but even if they don’t, that does not mean your ad hasn’t made an impression (at least as much of an impression as other non-direct response display media). By hanging our hats on that metric, we set ourselves up for failure. Poor click through means poor performance means lower value means lower investment means worse content means lower click through… and so on and so on.
Banners are not print… or television.
As a panel, I don’t think we agreed on whether banners are closer to print or video (well, I didn’t agree). But we did agree that while you can treat them like either of those, they will be most successful when you play to their strengths… reach, interactivity, focus, and context (from a content and viewer perspective). Whether you start from the simple static version and build up, or conceive of a full viewing/interactive experience then pare it down for all executions, it’s most important that you consider the characteristics of banners and how to use them to your advantage.
Coming up in Part 2: Future Musings.