“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future” – Oscar Wilde
So what’s the latest in banners?
That’s a good question. On the surface it can sometimes feel like the banner is stuck in a rut. A slightly out dated, old fashioned way of marketing, that languishes far behind the other bleeding edge technologies out there.
The banner is still very much with us and will be for a long time, for a number of very good reasons.
In my opinion, there are three factors driving banner ads forward.
Whole industries, agencies, networks, companies and exciting new business models have all developed off the back of the banner ad. It is still big business, generating healthy revenues for those involved and proving it’s longevity as a marketing staple. 40% of UK internet users still click on banner ads and spend on display marketing is on the rise. Banners aren’t dead yet and many companies now see them as a brand awareness tool, moving away from hard facts and figures like click through and conversion rates. They may not be effective at driving large sales numbers, but that’s not all they’ll be judged on in the future.
There’s a lot of technology going on behind the scenes that wasn’t previously available. It’s no coincidence that the banner ads you see on a daily basis are becoming more and more relevant to your interests. Cookies track where you’ve been on the internet and appropriate banner ads are displayed accordingly to maximise conversion.
Facebook is the perfect (and worrying) example of this. This year Facebook acquired Face.com, the company behind much of its existing facial recognition technology. It is absolutely inevitable that Facebook will eventually search every single photograph for advertising opportunities and serve banners accordingly – your clothing, the can of coke you’re holding, the restaurant menu on the table – all collected information used to serve you relevant banner ads. But what if it went further? What if Facebook scanned your photos for cosmetic defects?
So, Facebook thinks I should sort out my teeth and my hairline… I have some suggestions for you too Facebook, four-lettered suggestions. I’ve never mentioned anything about either of these on my timeline, or joined any groups, or liked any similar pages. This could mean I’m part of a test group, or it could just be coincidence based on other demographic information, which is how Facebook would no doubt explain it. I’ve already debated this with friends and colleagues, many of which are convinced that I’m letting paranoia get the better of me.
Targeting can be a good thing however, especially when used correctly and no one minds being offered a big saving on a product they are genuinely interested in. It just needs the correct balance. It was targeting after all that made the banner relevant again.
The final factor that will keep banners alive is the new generations constantly discovering the internet for the first time. In my previous post I mentioned the one time ubiquitous Alta Vista search engine. The chances of a random 20 year old in the street knowing about Alta Vista is unlikely. Years will pass, banners become more sophisticated, younger internet users won’t remember the bad old days and the humble banner will come full circle – A brand awareness tool, with the ability to convert sales from trusting internet users with a single click… there’s no billboard or magazine ad on the planet that can compete with that.
But where do affiliates fit in?! Affiliates drive innovation, for better or worse, and I can’t wait to see what they do with banners next. Out there, somewhere, right now, is an affiliate working on a banner master plan, the likes of which the world has never seen – you can bet on it. If by some miracle that person is reading this, then please get in touch, I’ve got the perfect programmes for you!