For years and years I've heard that the banner is dead, or that it was dying, or that it was morphing into larger, more impactful, richer media units. I believed what "they" said, but just this past week while watching the World Series on Fox, I realized that the banner hasn't died, it just went over to TV!
How many of you noticed the eerily familiar, 728x90-esque unit that was laid across the top of the screen and resolved into the scoreboard graphic at random times throughout the night? I did -- and the irony was not lost on me.
One of the most frustrating aspects of being a digital media strategist is that recurring dialogue (or debate, depending on the mood) about the impact of advertising in television vs. the impact of advertising online. TV-centric marketers speak of the sight, sound and motion of TV vs. the limited screen size of the Internet. Internet pundits claim the state of engagement (lean-forward vs. lean-back) and the interactive component of online as the rationale for increased spending. Both sides have a point, but I find it funny that TV advertising is starting to incorporate more and more of the online units into the fray, thereby undermining their very own argument.
For years Fox has been leading the way of integrating more graphical display units into the mix. The digital on-screen graphics (or "bugs," as some people call them) have mirrored much of what can be done online: banners, full-screen takeovers that resolve to a smaller unit, and even embedded images within the programming on sportscasts. This banner unit, which if memory serves me correctly was an ad for DirectTV, steals directly from online -- but without the interactive component that lends it so much strength online!
The banner unit from the World Series expands, shows an ad that is very much like any of the plethora of Flash ads you see online, and the resolves back into the scoreboard graphic. The strategy is simply one of exposure, with no opportunity for a response or any user-initiated action. If it were up to me, I would put a message in there about visiting a Web site or a special digital cable channel that would be set up with more information.
I would think creating unique channels for marketer follow-up within a digital cable environment would be a killer way to encourage interaction and measure consumer response (drive to channel 1436 to get more information). In this way, TV would be gaining ground on digital as a means of measuring response. The picture-in-picture feature, or even the "last" button on my remote, would allow me to parallel path an inquiry for more information while not losing my place on the program I'm watching (though this is all for naught, since I could just pause that program as well).
It's inevitable that TV is going to be more like digital and digital is going to become more like TV. Digital is already embracing video into the platform, which marks where the future is headed for integration. TV is taking more steps to promoting brands during programming because DVR usage and commercial skipping are on the rise. When will TV begin to offer these digital on-screen graphics as a type of standardized offering?
That last question is one that intrigues me the most. As more consumers avoid commercial interruptions, TV is going to have to find ways to monetize programming during the show, and the old ad banner seems to be a logical consideration. If more shows, beyond sports, start to integrate that kind of unit and create ways for consumers to click or respond for more information, then the lines will blur even more between online and digital. In fact, everything will go digital! It's only a matter of time before my third-party ad-serving partners will be rotating into a fixed TV banner that comes up once during every content pod, right? The limited real estate and the limited availability will create a low supply, high demand -- and therefore, high premium -- placement, won't it?
I look fondly toward the future when the banner receives the embrace from advertisers that it so richly deserves. A toast, if you will, to the ad unit that was years ahead of its time!
Don't you agree?