Sick To Death

Am I the only one getting irritated by the endless discussions about the “death” of banner ads?

I don’t know how many postings and articles I’ve read on the subject, but it’s been a bunch. Here’s a quick synopsis – followed by a quick, start-the-year-right smack to the head.

The synopsis of stuff I keep hearing reads a bit like this — banner ads are dead, click-through rates are dropping to nothing, nobody reads them anyway, don’t forget the branding, “I’ll never sell pay per click,” banners are for direct response only, banners are no good for branding, bad people buy on a pay per click deal and then design their banners to minimize click-through and get cheap branding (which doesn t work) and so forth.

And so the discussion goes on and on and on. And it’s getting kind of boring.

I may be wrong, and I often am. But it seems to me that everyone is forgetting that banner ads are just that they’re ADVERTISEMENTS.

And now for a brief story of unrequited love.

Imagine I went out on a date with a lovely girl named Anna Banana. We have a wonderful evening, we’re still talking over coffee and both discern a twinkle in the other’s eye. A good date indeed. So I go home, sit by the phone and wait for her to call and ask for my hand in marriage.

Unreasonable? Okay, try this.

I create a site to sell some fruit, buy ten thousand impressions for my new banner ad — Buy My Bananas, Click Here — and wait for people to come to my site and buy bananas.

Unreasonable?

Yes, of course. But I bet you find the second scenario a little more reasonable than the first. And if that’s the case, allow me to give you a seasonal start-the-year-right smack to the head.

Relationships – whether personal or with prospective customers – take time to build. You can’t expose someone to your banner ad a couple of times and expect any real action. It ain’t gonna happen.

“Oh,” you say. “You’re talking about branding with banner ads.”

No, I’m not. I’m talking about any banner ads, whether “direct response” or “branding.” In fact, I’m talking about any ads on or offline.

Anyone out there ever had a subscription mail-in card drop out of their copy of TV Guide? Ever received anything in the mail from Reader’s Digest? Ever heard from AOL?

And the next question is: Have you heard from any of these companies JUST ONCE?

No, you haven’t. You’ve heard from them numerous times. Because they understand that just because they make an offer to you today, it doesn’t mean that today is the right time for you to say yes. But they also know that the time might be right for you next month, or the month after that, or next year.

That’s why smart advertisers — awareness, retail, direct response — know that they have to keep on advertising, consistently and relentlessly, without pause. They have to be there, in front of you, when the time is right for you. Whenever that may be.

And when you get smart and follow their lead, the distinction between a “branding” banner ad and a “direct response” banner ad begins to blur. Because after repeated exposures, your direct response ad will begin to brand, and your branding ad will begin to create response.

And by the way — your “branding” ad is, in fact, an “awareness” ad. You can’t build a brand with a bunch of banner ads.

So – enough of the whining already! Enough of all the discussions about awareness and response. Because you won’t achieve either if you don’t understand how ads work. And ads work through repeated exposure.

So repeat after me: “In 1999, I will get real, understand that the Internet is not simply a cheap place to do business, allocate a decent budget for my online advertising, and undertake to stay the course.”

In my humble opinion, if you say that and mean it, you’ll beat a lot of the other guys in 1999.

Or you’ll deserve a start-the-year-right smack to the head.

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