The banner has gone downhill ever since, according to most working in this digital display ad business:
“Banners are ignored.”
“Banners get blocked.”
“Banners don’t work.”
For years we have blamed the banner (display) ad for all of our problems. The thing is, the ad banner didn’t fail us. We failed it.
We were handed a new medium with millions of consumers on day one. We were handed an exciting new ad to sell to advertisers that could instantly transfer a consumer to an advertiser’s online store. We were selling time travel. Advertisers, while initially skeptical, quickly started writing big checks to buy these display ad banners.
Then we screwed it all up.
So what’s the problem today? Just about everything.
In my fantasy of being nominated to restore order to the business of digital media so it is sustainable for generations to come and not just the next big deal, here is my first 100-day plan to fix the system we broke:
1. Data. Fundamentally, I believe we are taking something from consumers without their consent and full understanding, and this fuels an undercurrent of resentment that is not sustainable. I will make it a law that sites have to visually display a counter tracking how many data points have been taken from a consumer during each visit session.
In addition, there must be a red easy button on every browser that allows users to immediately stop all data collection of any kind.
2. Ad-Edit Ratios. Ad-edit ratios in print used to be a simple sales pitch. The higher your edit percentage, the more likely the ads you sold received attention from your audience. The ad-edit ratios of iconic content brands on the Web look like this:
I will pass a law so that the ad-edit ratio must be calculated for every site and displayed for media buyers to evaluate, other publishers to notice, and for consumers to see as they arrive at a Web site, so they can decide if that site is worth their attention.
Now watch as Web publishers race to clean up their sites so they can claim to have the best ad-edit ratio in their space.
3. Video Advertising. Nothing makes a consumer scroll down a Web page faster than an auto-play pre-roll ad. Consumers also hit mute, go to another browser, pick up their phone or stare at the ceiling -- all just to avoid watching that effing ad.
I will pass a law that all pre-roll video ads must be six seconds long, and the video content experience will only begin when a user clicks play and then fills in a CAPTCHA.
Total video plays of course will plummet, but that number is full of shit now, anyway. With my new law, human engagement with video content and the ads that run prior will increase significantly. Publishers will then have real human engaged inventory to sell at a premium rate, and/or give away as added value in return for a larger commitment to purchase display ads.
4. Mobile. Looking at 20somethings who have had phones since they were teenagers, it’s almost impossible to ignore their physical and emotional device addiction on full display. We are profiting from this addiction, as mobile ads fund this whole operation. This mobile device addiction is literally killing people on our roads and figuratively killing family communication.
You wouldn’t give a 13-year-old kid crack cocaine, but we hand out iPhones to this group like candy. In my very first day in office, I will pass a law that you must be 21-years-old to have a phone.
5. The Banner. We owe the display ad unit an apology and a chance to succeed.
To do that, I will pass a law that all sites must limit their page views to two display ad units: a 728x90 that appears along the top of the page, and a 300x250 placed in the left-hand rail that is “fixed” so that when a user scrolls down, the 300x250 remains in view. The same advertiser must always occupy both ad units each time a consumer views a page.
All other ads, including “native,” will be removed from the premises.
Web pages will look great, sites will be trusted, ads will be noticed -- and the responsibility to get someone to click and visit an advertiser’s site will be on the shoulders of the creative, where it has always belonged.