Are GIF Banners Dead?

Anybody else notice that the “overall decline in response rates” for GIF banner advertising is getting a little out of control?

Some of my past columns have defended animated GIF banners rather adamantly, but I think that maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that stance. Isolating the creative format variable in several recent and current K2 online campaigns, I could probably make a compelling argument that animated GIFs have gone the way of the dodo.

Two years ago, our GIF banner response rates consistently clicked through at 2 percent or more. Often, targeted inventory would produce CTRs anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent, while back-end action rates stayed pretty consistent. These days, a GIF banner campaign will tend to launch with an average CTR of under 1 percent, with only media optimization able to drive those CTRs into a respectable range.

While all of this definitely constitutes a trend, all is not lost. We have other creative formats that are newer, more interactive and more flexible. Java banners, HTML banners, interstitials and the other, newer formats are keeping overall response rates respectable.

Could it be? Are GIF banners dead?

Cyberspace is a place where the new and cool is constantly tested against the old and the worn-out. And I think we may be well on our way toward seeing GIF banner advertising replaced by more flexible formats. Perhaps we’re seeing natural selection doing its job here.

Almost three years ago, animated GIF banners began to replace the static GIF. (When was the last time you produced one of those non-animated dinosaurs?) This happened for many reasons:

  • Animation was eye-catching
  • Animation allowed for a more detailed message (added frames allowed for more information in the same space)
  • Animation simply produced better CTRs

How is this any different from what’s going on with newer media formats today? Java, Flash and streaming media are producing executions that are more eye-catching, more detailed, and more attractive overall. So why are so many agencies still sticking by the standard animated GIF?

The web is, among other things, an environment where the pace of natural selection is accelerated significantly. As stewards of a client’s online presence, interactive agencies must adapt to a furious pace in their online endeavors. I’d like to suggest that this pace has taken us past the point where animated GIF banners are the standard for online advertising.

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