Digital MarketingDisplay AdvertisingIn Defense of the Banner Ad

In Defense of the Banner Ad

Though native advertising is currently the apple of the industry's eye, banner ads are still relevant, as programmatic buying and big data make them more sophisticated.

david-miller-aolGuest column by David Miller, AOL

Banner ads used to be the be-all and end-all of online advertising, until native advertising came along – now considered the industry darling. But banner ads have shed the freshman 15, and gotten a full makeover. They are no longer completely static 300X250 banner ads targeted to the wrong people at the wrong time. They can be premium, compelling and engaging rich media ad units that play an important role in any marketer’s online campaign.

Here are just a few reasons why banner ads still matter in 2015:

The Canvas Is More Sophisticated Than Ever

Ads should be authentic and above all, tell a story. The most compelling ads are those that drive the viewer to interact – not just because they are looking to buy something, but because they are truly interested in the story that the product or brand has to tell.

The banner ad has moved beyond flashing WordArt GIFs, and the canvas we have to work with today is more versatile than ever. There are no limits to our creativity in how we tell stories. We now can offer banners that are highly interactive and serve as landing pages all on their own. Many of those interactive banners result in easy-shareable formats as well.

Additionally, video in a banner ad can be very powerful. Sight, sound and motion can be an important part of storytelling. We have to be creative with our canvas and keep story front and center.

Data-Driven Banner Ads

Today, banner ads are tightly interwoven with data. We have deep insight into the browsing, shopping and buying habits of users. Much research is put into delivering the right advertiser to the person at the right time but this same data should be used to dynamically update the creative message itself – ensuring that each message is crafted for that individual user. Additionally, the greater insight available in advanced creative ensures that the data is being used to its utmost efficacy.


There is a level of precision that is possible today – with all the non-PII data we now have at our fingertips – that was not possible in the past, which all marketers should be taking advantage of.

Build Once, Deploy Everywhere: One Size Fits Almost All

There is a new programmatic approach to banner ads that allows for more focus on the creative. Much more than in custom native content, which is often locked into a certain format, we can allow programmatic’s technology and responsive design architecture to develop the actual ad units. Coupled with data-centric thinking, we have a truly powerful tool for targeting the right message to the right user – regardless of screen or device.

At a time when DSPs and ad servers are increasingly able to target users across all devices, advertisers need to leverage advanced technologies that allow creative to efficiently alter their size, shape, and experience across devices. Less time developing allows for more time and resources to be spent on analysis, optimization, and innovation.

Banner Ads and Native Content Complement Each Other

Some believe that native content was the final nail in the ad banner’s coffin. Not so. Native content has only provided a new, relevant and very fitting way for banners to be used. Ask yourself: how can a banner ad enhance native content? It is not as simple as repeating the message. Banner ads must advance the story. They should support native content in a complementary way. This makes for a seamless experience, and when done correctly, can greatly enrich a viewer’s experience by giving them more ways to interact with a brand.

Simply put, innovations in digital advertising have elevated the banner ad to a new level of usefulness and effectiveness. Rather than viewing banner ads as an outdated format, brands should consider them as unique and powerful solutions for exposure, conversion and conversation. Storytelling is at the core of the mission, and all of the advances in ad technology have empowered us to tell them more effectively.

As the vice president of product management at AOL, Miller oversees AOL’s premium advertising experiences. More specifically, Miller is focused on the monetization products and strategy that extend across all of the AOL Brands and The Huffington Post properties. Miller also oversees the development, deployment and operations of the Desktop, Mobile, and Video Premium Format suite for the AOL Owned and Operated Properties, and Premium Format Network.


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