My friend who sells Web ads on the West Coast tells me he used to be the toast of the town a year ago. No shortage of cocktail party invitations for him, he was a proud dot-commer. But today, when asked what he does for a living, he mumbles something unintelligible and quickly changes the subject. All glory is fleeting.
But if you look at what has happened dispassionately, what's evident is that offline media growth has stalled, perhaps even gone negative. But online media's growth has dropped from clearly unsustainable levels down to more reasonable growth. But it's still growing. The rap on Web advertising is that it doesn't work, but advertisers who use it will tell you that if bought properly and used correctly, it works wonderfully.
There's a wonderful German word that describes the emotion some people feel when they witness the hardship of another: schadenfreude; literally, the pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Is this what's happening today? Is the (offline) press enjoying the misfortunes of online media, and making their enjoyment public?
In all media, some ads work and some don't. Advertising professionals who know what they're doing are more likely to create ads that work, particularly if they're promoting a good, well-priced product or service. PhaseOne Communications, together with the Ad Council, released a study outlining the main ingredients of a successful banner ad campaign. Enticingly titled "Secrets of Highly Clickable Banners", the study will be soon available on their website, http://www.phaseone.net/pages/newsframe.html.
According to PhaseOne and the Ad Council, the guiding principals for a successful banner ad campaign are:
1. Drawing the eye
Keep in mind that the last reason a consumer visits a Web page is to look for an ad. Therefore the ad must first attract attention to itself, diverting the consumer's mind from its original mission. Not an easy task, by the way. How to do it? Motion seems to help. Over a third of the least-clicked group of ads didn't include motion.
2. Engaging the mind
The Web is not a passive medium; it entails reading and reacting. Its ads must likewise engage the consumer's mind by interesting him and giving him a reason to remain engaged.
3. Creating a desire for more
At some point the consumer is going to ask himself, "What am I going to get out of this ad?" The benefit must be readily apparent, or nothing will happen.
4. Facilitating action
Whether or not a banner has been designed to be clicked on or merely read, it should make it clear to the consumer just what action is expected from her. For example: If the marketer wants to the ad to be clicked, put "click here" somewhere on it.
In Russia they say, "Repetition is the mother of learning." Mad Magazine said it in its own unique way: "Department of Redundancy Department." The idea is the same; modification of behavior requires frequently repeated instructions. Others have presented the tips listed above, in similar ways. Hopefully, with enough repetition, the Web advertising industry will pay attention.
-- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of New York-based Leading Web Advertisers (LWA) - http://www.web-advertisers.com - a comprehensive Web advertisement monitoring service. He may be reached at email@example.com.