Remember the last time you left a Web site because the allure of clicking on a banner ad promising lower interest rates if you could punch the monkey was just too great?
Beyond punching primates or offering people the opportunity to don pajamas that they can live in that are also jeans they can sleep in, display advertising seems to come from a place where kicking the proverbial door into our Web viewing experience is seen as acceptable.
Today, brand marketers continue to pump billions of dollars into online display advertising. eMarketer estimates that display advertising will increase to almost $22 billion by 2015, surpassing the ad spend on search.
Thanks to technology advancing as quickly as the spending, banner ads are becoming more sophisticated and more focused. Video ads are becoming more prevalent.
But despite all of this, online display advertising has digressed into an incredibly weak branding vehicle. This is due, in large part, to brands, ad networks and agencies adopting a practice of barging into a conversation instead of fostering one.
Banner ads continue to allow brands to show up at the party and immediately start to sing their own praises and shove their own agenda or message down everyone else’s throats. They are not interested in you or anyone else at the party, or so it seems. Have you met this person before? Do you like them?
Do you want to give them your time, your attention or your money?
It’s only when we realize that people seek authentic, emotional connections and apply that realization to online display advertising, that we will see a more sustainable return on a brand’s marketing dollar.
Every brand willingly plays in this increasingly fragmented sandbox.
Too many brands aimlessly toss millions into display ads with little plan. Nor a content strategy. The result is, as a collective, we continue to spend billions making content ready for you to watch, whether you like it or not. Not because you’ve asked for it, but because we “think” this is what you’ll laugh at or what will make you tell your friends about Brand X.
It’s far from prophetic to say that this is no longer a world where brands can talk at their potential consumers, not with them. It’s no longer a place where one message fits all or where I, as a brand, would talk to you, the consumer, on my time, not yours.
In a time where personalization is at a premium, interactions are a must, and conversations are expected, the current approach to online display advertising (banner ads, to be more specific) seems somewhat antiquated. It’s not enough for people to see you. It’s not enough for people to click on you.
We live in a world where opinions we trust are a status update away. All of the information we could ever want — authentic information — is close by. A world where I can get credible information from someone outside of the brand. Who isn’t looking for a share of my wallet.
Brands can no longer assume it’s enough to be seen. In fact, it’s not enough to be heard. Today, brands have to be felt. People have to relate to you. They have to want to join you. And they have to do that, not because you offer them a 10 percent discount, but because in you, in the brand, they see a little piece of themselves.
How? Simple. Use your product to tell a story that will be relevant, engaging and authentic to a consumer. That’s it.
It’s time to stop viewing banner ads as “online billboards” and blindly hoping they will listen to it.. Instead, we must create deeper, more meaningful connections to the conversation.
Maybe we can figure out a way to start the conversation with a simple hello. Introduce ourselves. Figure out ways to tell them a story that they want to hear. A brand narrative that means something to them and to us.
I can assure that it won’t be a tale about monkeys.
Matt Smith is a Group Creative Director at MEplusYOU (formerly imc), where he leads strategic efforts for Louisville Slugger, Enterprise and Omni Hotels.