“Online Advertising: Is it Worth It?” was a brief, and pretty straight-forward half hour panel. But it got me thinking about designing static ads for the web. By static ads, I mean the “standard” click-through banner ads, usually situated along the top and down the sides of a website. Of course, being the standard has its inherent advantages, but the disadvantages are starting to pile up. This seems to indicate that the traditional click-throughs are slowly losing favor for other alternatives.
Despite being convenient (banner ads are essentially templates), there’s little room for design customization. There’s also the potential for banner blindness… users are so accustomed to “seeing” web banners in their standard locations that they can be completely ignored or forgotten immediately. With the web becoming more and more niche, it’s a greater challenge for advertisers to really target their audience, meaning there’s a better chance of placing ads on a site with the wrong demographic. Web sites that offer ad space should be able to provide very specific details, down to age, gender and location, of the people who access their site.
So where is online advertising going? A next generation version of the traditional web banner ads actually emulates the same idea behind “top shelf” placement at grocery stores. Take a look at Virb.com. It’s much more aesthetically pleasing then a traditional web page, in fact you almost can’t even see the ads. That’s because in this case the music labels are paying for top-shelf exposure. The danger, of course, is that the line between original content and the ads is starting to blur. A sophisticated web user can probably tell the difference, but that implies that there are others who won’t.
posted by Bryan Keplesky