Advertising rule #1: If a lot of people stare at something long enough, sooner or later someone's going to stick an ad there. That's why you see posters glued to walls, logos on blimps, commercials on movie screens, and banners on Web sites.
Advertising rule #2: No one is looking for your ad. Let me repeat that one: NO ONE IS LOOKING FOR YOUR AD. Especially on the Web. Have you ever heard anyone ask: "Did you catch that great Nike banner on Yahoo! last night?"
But there are Web advertisers who are succeeding. While statistics show that average click-through rates have dropped from around 5% a few years ago to around .4% today, some advertisers are credibly reporting click-through rates of over 10%. And not just X-rated ones, either.
But before we get to some common sense rules for success in Web advertising, consider this: what's wrong with a .4% click-through rate, anyway? In the recent Olympics, one of the more visible advertisers was Buick. If you assume each prime time commercial was seen in 20,000,000 homes, a .4% "click-through rate" (or whatever the television equivalent would be called) translates into 80,000 responses. Do you think they got that many? I don't. And is anyone accusing television of no longer working as an advertising medium? I don't think so.
Any new medium automatically attracts a disproportionate amount of attention:
* In the early early early days of radio, Arthur Godfrey once casually mentioned on his show that a furniture store near his house was having a sale. The place was immediately mobbed by listeners.
* When infomercials first began to run on television, sales of ab rollers, memory courses, fruit juicers, real estate schemes, and yellow-tinted glasses boomed.
Those are just two examples. And while radio and infomercials no longer command the huge response rates they once did, they're still very much in existence as productive advertising media.
Which brings us back to advertising on the Web. Or I should say, to advertising SUCCESSFULLY on the Web. Here are the Five Immutable Laws of Advertising on the Web:
1. Grab 'em Remember (see above) that no one is looking for your ad. In fact, the consumer is likely to be looking at everything on the page BUT your ad. So you've got to be direct, not cute. What's your hook? What's your proposition? Give the consumer a good reason to stray from his original purpose (i.e., to look at the page). Tip: A cynic once said that all successful advertising offers either money or sex.
2. Use attractive visuals An ad should stand out from the page. The color should be different from that of the page (otherwise-duh-it will blend in and disappear.)
3. Identify yourself If you have a recognizable name or logo, use it up front. If consumers trust you, they're likelier to buy from you.
4. Use the right media The appropriate message should be shown to the right audience at the right price.