Will More Graphics Revive Banners?

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NEW YORK -- If the @d:tech online advertising technology conference is any indicator, predictions of direct response dominating Internet marketing are coming true.

"[The Internet is] all direct marketing, and that's the kind of advertising no one wants," said Michael Bloomberg, president and founder of Bloomberg LP, New York, referring in his keynote speech this week to hurdles facing Internet marketers. The problem direct marketing poses for Internet ad sellers is that measurability makes non-performing advertising stand out, he said.

"[Internet ad reps] are not going to get away with the kind of things that a guy selling advertising on the side of a blimp can," said Bloomberg. "On the Internet, you can't hide the fact that [consumers] didn't notice [a banner]. Sooner or later, you're going to have to prove to the advertiser that someone saw their ad."

Comparing the Internet to the advertising assault in Times Square where everything blinks and flashes, Bloomberg said, "how do you stand out in the clutter? … You've got to find some way not to be like the old-line media."

The small show floor also had more of a direct marketing focus than previous Internet advertising trade shows, said Rosalind Resnick, president of e-mail list development and management firm NetCreations, New York. "The Internet advertising industry is definitely headed toward direct marketing. Two years ago, when you'd go to an Internet show, all you saw were tools promoting banner advertising. Now it's all about direct marketing. Banner advertising, as it exists today, is dead."

In the latest attempt to breathe life into banner advertising, IBM, Somers, NY, threw its weight behind the push for richer, deeper graphics in Internet advertising with the unveiling of Web graphics tools it calls HotMedia.

According to IBM, HotMedia will allow banner ad creators to add panoramic, three-dimensional, zooming, scrolling and spinning graphics to their banners without slowing the Web consumer's experience, a capability previously limited by the size of the pipes delivering the data.

IBM said HotMedia requires no plug-ins -- or small software packages that must be downloaded by Net surfers -- to be viewed. HotMedia tools are available free to Internet ad creators at www.software.ibm.com/net.media.

"HotMedia will deliver interactivity without the technology load," said Armando Garcia, IBM's vice president for Internet media.

"Bells and whistles are fine and dandy, but it doesn't solve the problem of doing good creative," said Evan Neufeld, online advertising analyst for Jupiter Communications, New York.

Meanwhile, IBM also said it is negotiating to reach some sort of partnership agreement with Narrative Communications Corp., creators of the technology that allows people to buy products, print literature and fill out forms inside banners without leaving a publisher's site.

The two companies expect to make an announcement this week, said Lori Dustin, vice president of marketing for Narrative, Waltham, MA.

Dustin conceded that simply adding more graphics capabilities won't be banner advertising's salvation. "I don't think HotMedia alone will make ads more effective," she said. "The consumer doesn't want to interact with an ad and not get anything out of it."

For one thing, there is very little testing employed in most banner ad campaigns, said Dustin.

So with the understanding that Narrative's future depends on banners' ability to deliver results, the firm is working on a training program for agencies, said Dustin.

"It [the training program] is not going to be about cool, whizzy tools," she said. "It's going to be about what works and what doesn't work on the Web."

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