As soon as the public began using the internet regularly during the 1990s, online advertising was introduced and grew exponentially within just a few years. Banner advertising specifically took off and before long banner ads were popping up on every website. In fact, all those banner ads quickly became a bit of an eyesore, and in 1996 the Interactive Advertising Bureau was created to manage online advertising. The Bureau set standards for the sizes and format of banner advertising, but it wasn’t long before web designers and marketers were discovering new ways to innovate their banner ads without breaking the rules.
In 1994, Java was introduced to the web, and a few years later around 1997, Java inundated banner advertising. Static images were replaced with animated cartoons blitzing around a person’s computer screen. By 2000, bandwidth and technology had improved and sped up to the point that rich media banner ads got a second wind, but eventually this fad passed as marketers discovered they weren’t getting the responses they were looking for. Most users in 2012 would agree that heavily animated banner advertisements are annoying, even if they do catch the eye.
Animation and graphics weren’t the only changes banner advertisements experienced in 1997, the intelligence of the ads shifted as well when “smart ads” were introduced. These advertisements could collect information from an internet browser’s search history to promote certain products and services that the “smart ad” deemed the user would be most interested in. These types of advertisements still cause privacy controversy today.
The last major moment in the early days of banner advertising was the controversy surrounding how marketers and website owners would purchase banner ads. At first, companies would simply pay x amount of dollars per month to have a certain number of ads spread across the web. Then, marketers discovered that it was easy to track how many clicks their ads were actually getting, and therefore insisted they should only have to pay per click. In 1995 and 1996, banner click through rates were estimated at about 10% all the way up to 50%. By 1997, internet users weren’t so impressed with banner ads anymore, and the click through rate fell to 1%, closer to the .05% it is today. Thus the battle between companies selling banner ad space and marketers purchasing banner ad space began. Today there is an agreed upon combination pricing method which takes into account performance and cost per impression to determine the cost of a banner advertisement campaign.
Although banner ads have changed over the last fifteen years later, they are still a popular way to market online, and a technique which won’t be going away anytime soon.