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Tuesday, May. 26, 2009 at 7:49 am

Apple’s Banner Ad Innovation

By Jeff Sexton
May 26th, 2009

Probably the most famous (and successful) banner ad campaign has been the infamous dancing figures banner ads for LowerMyBills.com, with ROI reported to be in the 4:1 range.  The fact that they no longer infest the web with their rational-though destroying antics might be the sole silver lining of the recent financial crises.

But as the ROI figures attest, the ads worked.  And they worked because:

1) The animated movement made them almost impossible to ignore.

This is important because online visitors are practically hardwired to ignore banners and right-hand columns in order to focus on Active Window content.  So most static banner ads are assiduously ignored.  Right-hand column ads can work, but you’d better have a very targeted audience and contextually relevant ad

2) The appeal of the offer was incredibly broad – if you owned a home, you were a potential target.

As annoying as the LowerMyBills ads were, they worked because they had a relevant offer to the vast majority of viewers.  Obviously, you can have a narrower appeal if you also narrow the placement and context of your ad, but the laws of relevancy still apply.

So why do I bring this all up?  Because it appears as if Apple has figured out how to make animated banner ads un-ignorable AND enjoyable (rather than annoying).  Check out this post on Apple’s latest banner and sky-scraper ad combo on the New York Times.

P.S. And for all the Apple fans out there, here’s more news on the highly anticpated Apple Tablet computer

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Comments (18)

  1. I’ve often wondered what the ROI is on those ads, I’ve seen them in so many places. Blanketing ads across the internet is not something I’m familiar with, I’m accustomed to finding a niche and targeting a specific audience.

    I would love to see the ad myself, but it doesn’t appear to be on the nytimes.com site anymore.

  2. If I’m not shopping for a computer, it’s not relevant. If it’s not relevant, it’s annoying.

  3. I’m tired of people implying that banner ads don’t work if they don’t get click-throughs or direct conversions (not suggesting you’re doing that, Jeff). Nobody holds billboards or TV ads to that same standard. The fact that we actually can track direct conversions and click-throughs is great, but a lot of times — especially when selling something with a degree of sales complexity, like a computer — banners should be about (*gasp*) branding and demand marination.

    This post from The Ad Contrarian (great blog, definitely worth subscribing, I just disagree with him on this point) illustrates the attitude I’m talking about: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2009/05/you-just-dont-get-it-do-you.html

    Apple’s banners prove that it’s possible to a) be compelling, b) entertain, c) do an engaging animated ad, d) integrate a campaign across channels.

    We may not know what Apple’s direct ROI is from the web portion of the “Get a Mac” campaign, but, from a branding perspective, they’re doing it right.

    It’s like buying magazine ads. Buying a half-page is stupid. Buying a 1/4 page is an even worse idea. If you want your ad to be effective, you do a “double-trucker” (2 page) spread at the very beginning or you buy the back cover. But taking over the NYT homepage is even smarter than that, because you’re guaranteed attention and — unlike a magazine ad — you can link directly to a landing page.

  4. As for buying a “double-trucker” ad,David Ogilvy would disagree.
    He had found that you only increase your readership by 20% over a single page ad at almost twice the cost. It’s the frequency not the size that makes an ad buy effective.

  5. Tom,

    Good point. I guess the analogy I was really trying to draw is that you have to buy at least double the banner space to get the effect of buying a full page ad. Most banner ads are the visual equivalent of buying a half or quarter-page print ad.

  6. Tom,

    I would be very wary of applying Ogilvy’s advice on “double-truckers” to Apple’s ad; you’re dealing with two different animals. A magazine is (for the most part) a linear medium. Even if you don’t carefully read every page, you still flip through all the pages from start to finish. So most readers are just as likely to see a whole page ad as they are to see a double truck spread. Actually, depending on what content is opposite the single page ad, readers may even spend more time looking at it than at a double truck. So Ogilvy’s advice had to do with maximizing exposure for your ad dollar.

    Websites aren’t linear and banner ads, by their very nature, can’t be “single page” ads. An online ad that takes up a whole page isn’t an ad – it’s a website. So with a banner ad, the major challenge is ensuring that people don’t entirely tune it out. So purchasing additional page space and then having the ad on the side interact with the ad at the top of the page probably purchases many times the viewer engagement that a single banner or side ad would have purchased. So Ogilvy’s advice to get the most effective ad space for the dollar would likely end up in favor of Apple’s tactics.

    That’s my take on it anyway.

    - Jeff

  7. Hello all, my two’peneth for what it’s worth…

    In my professional life pre digital epiphany, I spent years planning and analysing brand and direct response campaigns using press, tv, outdoor etc and it’s fair to say that the majority of the truisms of the traditional disciplines apply to digital activity, crucially starting with setting of the objectives and KPI’s.
    The fundamental difference is the increased visabality and dynamism of the response.

    In certain instances it is possible for a display creative with a near 0% ctr to be deemed a success depending on how the media buy has been negotiated and if performance is viewed in context with a thorough engagement mapping/click share analysis.

  8. [...] when my recent post on Apple’s Banner Ad Innovation provoked some Ogilvy-inspired comments that compared banner ads to magazine ads, I thought It would [...]

  9. I don´t think that banners bring the same results that used to do in the past.
    To day , people don´t want to see just ads but also good content.

  10. Personally I am “banner”-blind.

    I do not see them (like the one below this comment-field).

    For the same reason I only use text-Adsense on my websites.

  11. It will be help me for doing my online business

  12. The experienced net user has these days developed what we call a banner blind spot. But the cold hard fact for advertisers is there may not be anywhere else for them to go as SEO niches/industries become saturated as we have seen in the adult industry. Marketers and advertisers will no doubt have nowhere else to turn than to banner ads. Banner space can now be purchased auction style via banner auctions or ad space auctions such as bidswamp.com

  13. great article
    nowadays,ads have to be creative so that customers will be attracted.

  14. It’s great to see NON annoying ads put into practice.

  15. The iPhone is taking over the world, one Apple Banner Ad at a time. Their innovation on all sides is just sick sometimes.

  16. #

    thanks for your information!!!

  17. I love apples banners, I tried to get a similar thing on my sites but it is harder than it looks to make it look rigth. Banner ads are still good, but they just don’t get the clicks like they did in the 90s.

  18. I think the idea was great – while playing with banners for a cpa campaign recently I was able to replicate the effect – used one of those silly before-after on the masthead, then a silly “let me tell you my story” on the right-hand side, featuring the same character. If the content is related, visitors really play game with the more compelling banners. Thank you for the share.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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