Who Said The Banner Is Dead?

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?

11 comments about "Who Said The Banner Is Dead?".
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  1. Nelson Yuen from Stereotypical Mid Sized Services Corp., November 4, 2009 at 4:36 p.m.

    Totally Agree.

  2. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., November 4, 2009 at 4:36 p.m.

    Very insightful commentary Cory and of course completely ironic. I was watching Larry King the other night (having not watched him for a long time) and I couldn't believe the amount of activity going on across the lower portion of the screen ala a Flash-esque banner. It reminded me of the web of old and unintegrated technique of capturing attention with song and dance...and this was Larry King!

    Of course in show promotions via this type of superimposed banner have gotten very popular as well due to the effectiveness of in-show, on network promotions. Unfortunately, I think we'll keep seeing more and more...and I say unfortunately because I think it greatly detracts from the user experience.

  3. Alex Flores from Empty Space, November 4, 2009 at 4:44 p.m.

    Cory, I completely agree and while watching the World Series I thought the very same thing. Great article this week.

  4. Richard Monihan, November 4, 2009 at 4:51 p.m.

    Couldn't have said it better.

  5. Rajan Sharma from OffStump Digital, November 4, 2009 at 4:54 p.m.

    You hit the nail on the head, Cory. TV had this a long time coming - ever since the medium adopted on-screen graphics and the ticker. Long live the banner!

  6. Lee Freund from TubeMogul, November 4, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    Banners are alive and well. Today's banner creative enables any functionality of a web site to be distributed to users across the web. It provides the most scalable, flexible, and measurable content distribution strategies available. Don't give up banners. Give up weak, low resolution creative that does nothing more than click through.'ve come a long way.

  7. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., November 4, 2009 at 5:36 p.m.

    It takes broadcast a long time to get with the program. Let's see, banners pretty much started on the web about 1997 or 98, so they're about 10 years or so behind (as usual). They are, however, doing better than the newspaper industry. Don't forget - a paid Hulu is a dead Hulu.

  8. Thomas Kurz from EFP, November 4, 2009 at 5:54 p.m.

    Le Banner est mort, vive le Banner!

  9. Dean Collins from Cognation Inc, November 5, 2009 at 9:41 a.m.

    Based on the number of people chatting on during the game last night i totally think that there is a significant number of viewers who browse websites while watching baseball.


  10. Ned Newhouse from, November 5, 2009 at 9 p.m.

    Cory while I agree that TV will continue to evolve as you suggest by further integrating advertising banners and other promotional elements into green screens or on screen, if they ever added a click aka response element to it, it would end up into the DR aka cpc, cpa measurement that the Internet is burdened with. Marketers would stop paying for them or it would go cpc or cpa. The fact that the internet over other media is measurable puts banner ads into the bottom of benefits. Paid sponsorship banners on outfield fences in the 1930's to now continue to grace ball parks from little league to major league baseball parks.

    I once had a deep discussion with a media buyer from a large bank that would not advertise their mortgages on (targeted) Bankrate because they wouldn't pay a $30 cpm and would only pay cpa on our site. So I asked how many closed loans did they get from their "728x90 banner" out in left field of shea stadium and what percent were mortgage buyers vs our ~100%?

    No doubt 30 second advertisements on TV can provide a rich emotional or brand response from consumers. Unless of course you're off grabbing a sandwich, petting your dog or fast forwarding via tivo. Internet is push vs pull. You can't fast forward a pre roll ad on a browser and you are "forced" to stare at it, if you want to see the content. While i do not any longer sell net adv, even today I still don't get the fact that marketers don't at least equally value this consumer too. Is the woodie effect still in place for CMO's to see their ad on their favorite TV shows? All kidding aside, the fact that you can measure internet advertising hurts us compared to TV brand ads that you can't.

    While I can't take credit for it, there used to be a billboard on the streets within the city of Austin TX that I suggested the IAB should have it's members run. The billboard stated, "thank you for reading this sign and proving that billboard advertising works."

  11. Jeff Einstein from The Brothers Einstein, November 6, 2009 at 3:46 p.m.

    I agree with Mike Patterson's observation that the banner layovers and crawls that are beginning to afflict the TV screen will ultimately denigrate the user experience and do for TV what they've already done for many online destinations: wreck the joint.

    In most regards our passion for TV has already changed the Internet far more profoundly than the Internet will ever change TV, with one exception: our addiction to digital scale and the myth of ROI -- which explains why we feel compelled to drive revenue from every square inch of available real estate, regardless of its impact on the user experience and the quality of our lives.

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