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The Banner's Comeback?

  |  March 25, 2004   |  Comments

Can the Polite Banner revive the humble banner ad?

Rich media companies battle endlessly to increase their share of the interactive market. Nearly a year ago, Eyeblaster unveiled a new ad unit cleverly dubbed the 100k Polite Banner. It may seem bizarre for a rich media firm known for eye-catching ads to christen one of its formats "polite." But, no question, it was genius. With so much contempt directed at invasive ad units, a polite alternative is a breath of fresh air.

How can a 100k banner supporting audio and video be considered polite? Unlike standard banner units, the Polite Banner loads in stages. This appears seamless to onlookers, but in reality it loads a frame or two, pauses for page content to catch up, then loads to completion.

Banner file size is usually limited to 20k. That limits creative. The Polite Banner accommodates file sizes about 300 percent larger. Visitors get a rich online ad experience without slowed load times, an improvement over larger file sizes that leave consumers fuming at advertisers and publishers.

Countless publishers, including AOL, ABC, Boston.com, and Disney, have offered this unit for some time. To date, knowledge of the Polite Banner was limited. It wasn't until Yahoo agreed to accept the technology and Eyeblaster launched an associated promotional ad campaign, the industry's ears perked up.

Yahoo hopes Eyeblaster's format will attract media buyers who pass on more standard banner placements. It's also banking on higher CPM rates it can justify charging (though word is the publisher is waiving the usual technology fee associated with rich media buys). According to Eyeblaster, Yahoo is prepared to serve Polite Banners in the place of any standard banner units, including the good old 468 x 60.

With publicity like this and Eyeblaster's efforts to improve its structure, the banner ad is poised for a comeback. Could the Polite Banner improve the online landscape in the process?

We know banners haven't produced satisfactory results. Plenty of banner ads are still served, but smart buyers only invest in them on a CPC basis to guarantee results. It's significantly larger formats: free-form rich media ads and performance-oriented units, such as paid search ads and pop-ups, that advertisers have been relying on lately.

Despite the many available inventive and effective online formats, the Internet is rife with lurid and pushy ads that slow load times and block content from frustrated users. Many advertisers who employ these ads do so to get the eyeballs, leads, and conversions they feel banners, with their limited file sizes, can no longer supply.

By combining coveted rich media technology with existing standard banner sizes, Eyeblaster is breathing new life into a format currently considered little more than a bonus placement, no expectations attached. With the Polite Banner on the table, advertisers can opt for a less intrusive unit without relinquishing needed interactive features and creative freedom. Publishers can appease clients by offering larger file sizes, and not irritate their users in the process.

Finally, media buyers can kiss goodbye those arguments with sales reps over maximum file sizes. Never again must we negotiate functionality and creative styling with clients in an impossible effort to conserve space.

Eyeblaster's Polite Banner has the potential to be as flashy, noisy, and distracting as most any other ad. But its value lies in its ability to draw deserters back to the stationary banner, and maybe to turn the Web into a slightly better place.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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