Ask Jeeves Dumps Traditional Banner Ad Unit

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Don't look to click on the 468-by-60 banner ad on Ask Jeeves' Web site.


Once the standard-bearer for online advertising, the familiar banner got chopped Jan. 1 from Ask Jeeves because of its inability to perform. Instead, the Emeryville, CA, search engine will rely on its premier listings and branded response units, a mix of text and graphics with greater interactivity.


"Our goal is to make the user experience more satisfying and relevant," said Steve Berkowitz, president of Ask Jeeves Web Properties, "and we feel that banner advertising has both lost its luster and relevancy over time. And so, from an advertiser's perspective, the conversion rate has not been great."


Ask Jeeves, the No. 2 pure search site after Google, needed little validation of that fact. Click-through rates on its banners had dropped as low as 0.6 percent, albeit a bit better than the industry average of 0.3 percent.


Entities like classmates.com, AT&T Wireless and Microsoft, plus various financial services firms, were heavy users of banners on Ask.com. These companies mainly advertised through run-of-site banners, mainly to buy impressions. The banners ran on top of the search results page.


Berkowitz said Ask Jeeves has persuaded most of its banner advertisers to switch to its more contextual branded response units. Their agreements ran out Dec. 31. Ask Jeeves' branded response units yield a click-through rate of 2 percent to 5 percent, he claimed.


"The conversion and performance of that ad has become so strong that it has become a premium unit," he said.


This means Ask Jeeves will raise its rates for the branded response unit.


Running in the middle of a search results page, the branded response unit incorporates text and graphics. Users can enter keywords within the ad unit on the same search results page. Users of this unit include advertisers in pharmaceuticals, automotive, travel, mortgage services and wireless. They can buy keywords or categories.


Another ad unit peddled by Ask Jeeves is its premier listings. They are keyword-targeted, text-based ad units that appear above the search results page on Ask.com. Available across the Ask Jeeves network, these ads are marketed as a sure way to get included on a relevant search's results page.


Ask Jeeves' decision to ditch the standard banner comes soon after it eliminated pop-up ads on its site. Besides, it is no shocker. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, the online ad industry trade body, recently issued new guidelines for banner sizes. Not on that list was the 468-by-60 unit.


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