March 20, 2015 Last Updated 11:37 am

Guest column: ‘You’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad’

Guest columnist Ben Norton, Executive Vice President of Confident Technologies, calls for a change in approach from Internet advertisers

The first clickable ad was sold in 1993. Shortly after, the term “banner- advertisements” was coined and with AT&T leading the way, brands began to jump on the digital advertising train. Since then, display ads have become an essential part of brand marketing and with that, a major part of the web’s ecosystem. More than <strong>5.3 trillion display ads were served last year. The average Internet user is served more than 1,700 banner ads per month.

Trouble is, the majority of people ignore those ads. Automation such as programmatic buying and measurement classifications including CPMs (cost per thousand), CTRs (click-through rate), conversion rate, and impressions define how to navigate the digital ad marketplace and offer insight to targeting strategies, but none of these established practices address the overarching issue that banner ads are ineffective at engaging the user.


The first banner ad.

The average banner ad CTR is .1 percent. In addition to a lack of user engagement, banner ads are highly susceptible to ad fraud. Not to mention they are the driving force behind the viewability crisis. Advertisers are demanding higher standards when it comes to measuring what constitutes a viewable impression. Rack up all of these issues and the industry is looking at a pretty bumpy road on its journey to accurately defining and hitting its online return on investment.

In the past 20 years, advancements in technology have completely altered the way we communicate, yet banners are still a primary mechanism for distributing digital ads. It’s time for digital advertising to evolve and to get there, I believe we focus on evaluating what it’s going to take to connect and evoke interaction with consumers in a world where peoples’ attention is increasingly moving away from traditional media and toward digital.

Establishing a connection between a consumer and a brand is a foremost objective of advertising. Connection comes when a brand uses creativity to package a campaign that resonates with its consumers. Repetitive and predictable approaches to digital advertising have dehumanized brands and depreciated their ability to connect with consumers. Storytelling and native advertising are among current trends formed in the hopes of connecting and eliciting the emotion missing from digital advertising today. That connection is what makes a brand loyal consumer.

While an ad’s creativity is what triggers brand appeal, the mechanism that the ad is delivered on plays a vital role in grasping a consumer’s attention in the clutter-filled digital world. This is where the evolving part comes in. Banner ads have been renamed and redesigned but never rethought. It’s time to reimagine how digital advertising is implemented and increase the use of digital ad platform alternatives to banners.

It’s estimated that a person is more likely to survive a plane crash than to actually click on a banner ad. So why are advertisers repeatedly investing in the same approach and expecting different results? It’s time to let evolution run its course and move on to new solutions.

Ben Norton is Executive Vice President of Confident Technologies, whose product RevTap provides a human verified digital audience via the latest ad platform to publishers and advertisers of all sizes.

  • Derrian Shmar 3 years ago

    While I believe in the study’s findings, I believe the results would have been much different if more attractive/relevant banner ads had been used in this exercise. When you look around the digital/mobile ad landscape today (and as recently as the F8 conference this week), it’s fairly obvious that banners are undergoing a significant amount of reinvention. Whether its Facebook’s native-centric banners or Airpush’s Abstract Banners, I don’t think banners are bound for sustained defeats.