Banners Back in Vogue

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Despite the bad publicity and declining click-through rates of banner ads, the Web's earliest advertising vehicle is alive and well.


Xerox Corp., for example, will unfurl its largest banner buy next month. And findings from AdKnowledge released this week show that banners are an effective ad medium.


The Xerox "Blue Dog" banner ad campaign, scheduled to begin Aug. 14, will focus on the company's new line of color ink-jet printers. The company is planning to run more than 100 million impressions on technology sites such as ZDNet.com, News.com and Yahoo Europe. The run will wrap up at year's end.


The goal of the campaign is to attract members of the small office/home office marketplace to the Xerox.com site.


"It's one of the more extensive campaigns we've done," said Andrei Hall, vice president of Xerox's e-marketing group, Rochester, NY. "We think we can be pretty successful with driving people to the site."


Xerox has embraced banner ads after a number of successful campaigns. "You've got a better shot of reaching the customer than with direct mail. That's why online marketing is so popular. Direct mail depends on your database. Not too many companies have phenomenal databases," Hall said. "[And] it's a lot cheaper."


The banners will feature two or three different types of creative as well as an offer to win a free printer. Xerox is working with Digitas Inc. on the buy.


"Banners are great for direct response," said Tom Hespos, an independent online marketing and media consultant in New York. "Everyone was down on banner advertising six months ago. It's cheap. It's measurable. It works, especially if you measure nonclick conversions."


Nonclick conversions were the topic of an AdKnowledge's study, which found that even though consumers may not click on banners, it does not mean they do not visit the site.


The study covered a two-week online advertising campaign for the nonprofit organization Connect For Kids that ran on the Lycos Network in April. The campaign involved four banners and 5 million impressions.


One call-to-action was for consumers to register at Connectforkids.com by signing its guest book. Thirty-two percent of respondents who signed the book saw the banner ad but did not click on it.


"If you're focusing on click throughs, you're missing the point," said David Zinman, vice president of marketing at AdKnowledge, Palo Alto, CA. "You can't click on an ad during a television commercial. If you buy Miller beer after seeing an ad, you can't track that, but you can online. It's very exciting."


AdKnowledge tracks consumers who viewed ads by placing a cookie in their hard drives.


These results should make marketers that abandoned banners rethink their strategy, Hespos said.


"It's a shame. Back when folks were making evaluations of the effectiveness of the ads, they weren't looking at advanced targeting methodologies," he said. "They weren't measuring nonclick conversions. Click rates are a meaningless metric unless their goal is just to draw traffic."


In the meantime, the medium has been strong, Zinman said.


"A lot of the perceived lack of interest in banner advertising was more hype then anything. It was trendy to say, 'What's beyond the banner?' But spending has been doubling every year for the past two to three years."
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