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The Static Banner Ad: Online Media's Little Black Dress

  |  September 15, 2005   |  Comments

Always stylish and appropriate for any occasion, does the static banner ad still have a place online?

Rich media has been steadily gaining momentum since its inception, not long after the first banner ad appeared. Recent studies show that in terms of performance, rich media dominates static banners (CTRs (define) have been said to average 1.17 percent, six times that of non-rich media ads). JupiterResearch reports that by 2009, rich media ad units will account for over half of all spending on online display ads.

This usage boost is partially due to the technology becoming increasingly easy to employ. Specialized rich media companies, such as EyeWonder, are expanding their product offerings, allowing advertisers and publishers to consolidate their rich media buys. Others, such as Eyeblaster and aQuantive, offer ad management solutions designed specifically with rich media ads in mind. "Rich media is poised to become the new mass media," said EyeWonder's EVP of business development, Michael Griffin.

With rich media's superior performance and increased usability, one can't help but agree. Rich media is doggedly enticing advertisers, making it easy for them to overlook other formats. But given the static banner's impressive history we must ask: is there still a place for the traditional static banner online?

Many media buyers and publishers will tell you there is -- if you think of the static banner as online media's little black dress. It may not be as impressive at some events as a more animated alternative, but it's a safe bet for virtually all occasions.

Consider it your go-to format when you're stuck with nothing new. With its conservative appearance and classic lines (a nice contrast to over-the-top offerings), it's sure to make a good impression, even when you're someplace unfamiliar and don't know what to expect of the audience.

The key to taking the static banner from ordinary to extraordinary, however, is to know when and where it's the most appropriate fit. With an endless stream of new venues and placement opportunities at your disposal, you've got plenty of opportunities to work it.

Such as on blogs, where static ads are always the belle of the ball. "Our experience has been that static ads generally get higher click-throughs than animated versions," said Henry Copeland of Blogads, a blog ad network that runs only static ads (rich media ads will be introduced in November due to advertiser demand). Because blog ads run in a column immediately beside blog posts and entries, Copeland says it's important they "fit right in." That means staying away from animated and out-of-banner formats.

"The combination of an image and text looks more like the editorial environment of the blogs than a raw banner," he said. "When done with an interesting, uncluttered image, a static ad isn't screaming, 'I'm an annoying ad, ignore me!' but rather, 'I've got some interesting information to share with you.'"

Static banners are also useful in contextual and behavioral advertising, where grabbing consumers' attention is more about being relevant than conspicuous. If they contain information that corresponds with the site page and audience at hand, static banners can be an ideal fit for this medium.

"There's no question of the static ad's ability to deliver a relevant message in behavioral marketing," said Dave Morgan, CEO and founder of behavioral marketing firm Tacoda. "If there's a place where static ads can still perform well, it's with better targeting."

Morgan also notes, however, he sees very few static ads in his field compared with animated and rich media ads. "This isn't a question of the effectiveness of static ads with behavioral marketing," he added. "The market is just moving toward doing more with ads. As we start to think more about the consumer experience and the whole ad package (what consumers get when they arrive at a site page), it's clear there's still a place for static ads, particularly in supporting rich media."

Finally, most buyers already know the value of using static banners in content-rich environments, such as email newsletters and news sites. These placements demand an ad that doesn't detract from the reading material. Unassuming and considerate, the static banner fits the bill. As any woman will tell you, sometimes downplaying your attributes can actually make you more attractive.

The bottom line is know your venue, and you'll know if static banners are your best bet. When you need something a little flashier, you can always go out and buy some richer threads.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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