In the old days of affiliate programs, everyone distributed the same IAB standard ads throughout the Internet.
Although those days are clearly over, affiliate programs still haven't gotten the message. Few are adapting to shift to larger banner ads -- ads that can deliver stunning increases in performance.
From pop-ups to emails, increasingly larger banner graphics are beginning to dominate the Internet.
A look at Jupiter Media Metrix numbers tells you the story:
The Increasing Popularity of Bigger Banners
I clicked on a Netscape News story on my IM ticker and found that big ads dominate the entry screen. The article is nearly buried beneath them. Yet, Netscape continues to run these ads, as does CNET, Yahoo Finance, and many others.
Why? Because they work much better than smaller ads... for now. It started with skyscrapers, and now the use of bigger banner sizes is growing so quickly that they threaten to take over your screen. The use of pop-unders that nearly take up the full screen is increasing. For example, Fastclick.com's pop network uses 700 x 325 pop-unders to capture people's attention. And everyone has seen the huge X10 ads.
HTML emails that simulate postcard mailings are also becoming commonplace. They're basically the size and shape of a standard postcard -- 600 x 325 has worked well for me.
Finally, large banner ads are appearing on Web site pages. We did a test at Yahoo's email channel. With a geotargeted 400 x 450 flat banner ad, we got 3 percent click-through! What is even more surprising is that Yahoo defined its ad space as 400 x infinity, challenging us to make it as big as we wanted.
Now what I have learned in my own testing is that bigger banner ads must be a part of your creative development. But, I would never have applied this knowledge to email if not for my affiliates.
The Power of Bigger Banner Ads
One of the best things about an affiliate network is the continual testing and innovation your affiliates can offer. Though it can sometimes get out of control, this energy is one of the most valuable, hidden resources of affiliate programs.
Recently an affiliate taught me how to use bigger banner ads to improve my email click-through by at least 2 percent, and my conversion rate has improved as well.
I was running a detailed testing campaign to benchmark acquisition costs for a client. We focused on pop-unders, testing the size and shape of the X10-like banner against smaller banner pops (250 x 250, 400 x 450, and even an excellent 120 x 600 pop-under).
Meanwhile, one of my affiliates saw my 600 x 325 pop-under, grabbed it, and shot it out in an email. The results amazed all of us:
Bigger banners work much better on Web sites and in email for several reasons:
The problem with bigger banners is how they seem to be taking over the Web browser. Go to CNET or Yahoo Finance, and you'll see them growing all the time, sometimes interrupting your reading of the content.
You also may have to deal with bandwidth challenges. In my 600 x 325 banner test, that pop was 25k, much bigger than standard ads. We wondered if that would affect email performance, but, in fact, users seemed to be quite willing to wait for it to download.
The days of small banners are likely over for most of us; we all know how poorly they perform. But designing bigger ads involves more information space, and it's important to use that space wisely.
In my next article, I'll share with you how to create bigger banner ads, using the space and size to deliver your message in way that improves performance and actually enhances the advertising experience for the end user.
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