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The Fall of the Banner Ad: A Look at Online Advertising in 2014

You’re the modern-day Ad Men. Except instead of selling column space in newspapers and magazine, you deal in pixels and CTRs.

Online advertising has grown exponentially since its foundation in the 90s. Now, online ad sales make up the majority of the industry, and savvy companies are directingthe lion’s share of their budgets at the digital space. But as important as it is to get seen online, it’s even more important to get seen online by the right people, in the right format.

And that’s where you, the advertising agency, come in. You know the best places to place ads – and the type of ads to place – to get the best results for your clients. So what advertising trends are you following in 2014, and are banner ads still factoring into your strategy?

The Fall of Banner Ads


Is banner advertising no longer effective? Is banner advertising no longer effective?

Back in the 90s, when the Internet was gaining traction as a platform of the masses and the dot com boom was in full swing, banner ad companies were popping up everywhere. The model was sound: Place ads for products on pages containing content related (however vaguely) to those products, and curious consumers will click. And click they did.


In its heyday, this highly targeted advertising was pulling Click-Through-Rates of 50-90% (Source: LaunchBit). But as consumers got savvy to the fact they were being advertised to, the effectiveness of banner ads slowly declined. Just have a look at these results published by Adweek. But why the decline? Simply put; consumers saw too many banner ads, so they started ignoring them. Ad-blindness has kicked in, and CTRs declined to the point 1% is now considered a phenomenal result.

So what replaced the once-mighty Banner Ad, and what types of advertising are big in 2014?

Native Advertising


Not quite this kind of native advertising Not quite this kind of native advertising

Native Advertising is the term given to ads blended with engaging content – ten years ago, this meant text-link ads, usually sold through ad networks such as Google Adwords. Text link ads appear as part of a content stream, and look less like ads and more like a helpful source of “further information” provided by the webmaster.

Now, the term ‘Native Advertising’ covers all forms of advertising contained within content, and as content gets more sophisticated, so do the techniques. Sponsored content on blogs, ads that expand and contract as you scroll down the page, advertorials disguised as articles or navigation buttons. Native advertising has been surpassing banner click throughs for a number of years now, and it’s showing no signs of going away. (Source: Digiday)


A little marketing humour. A little marketing humour.

Companies are hiring whole firms simply to generate content in order to use it to promote their text link ads. Brands are becoming publishers, creating content that will seamlessly integrate their advertising. And publishers like the New York Times are embracing the format to provide more value for their clients. If your agency wants to compete for advertising clients, then you need to understand and sell the benefits of native advertising.

Search Advertising


The prime spots on Google are great advertising space. The prime spots on Google are great advertising space.

You’re looking to find a restaurant to eat at in Wellington, New Zealand. So you Google, “best Italian Restaurant in Wellington” and, to your delight, Google offers you 3 fine options at the top of your search. If Google likes them enough to favour them in the search, then they must truly be the best of the best, yes?

Sorry, no. They are just the restaurants that have chosen to place search engine ads with Google.

Search ads in their various forms are some of the most highly effective online campaigns, usually producing predictable results. Providing a company uses the right keyword phrases and texts the campaign to see what works best, search engine advertising can be the only form of advertising needed.

As an agency, search advertising should be one of the powerful tools in your toolkit. It provides predictable results and is great for risk-averse clients. Being able to achieve a solid result for your clients will not only keep them happy, but may sell them on some more creative campaign ideas.

Social + Mobile Advertising


Social media advertising platforms. Social media advertising platforms.

And here’s where things are really getting interesting.

Advertising through social media is nothing new, but so far, brands have been playing it safe, using many of the same methods that have already been successful in the past – combining banner- and text-link-style ads in news feeds and sidebars. But the possibilities of social advertising have yet to be fully explored. The real power comes not from the reach of a company’s network, but from getting that company’s customers to do the outreach FOR them.

Social media is changing the way people view and interact with content online. While the idea of a website “page” has been a vital component in the way people understand the web, the use of feed-based content in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has changed the concept of what a website IS. Now, static pages – even blogs as we know them - are beginning to go the way of the dodo. Users can scroll through feeds to get to the content they want and swipe through to the relevant details – and advertising is starting to catch on (Source: Digiday).

Add mobile capability to this, and the advertising world gets really exciting. Geo-targeting offers specific deals as customers get near a retail location. Apps can connect a user to others nearby who share similar interests. Alerts provide immediacy and often result in sales or upgrades. Mobile is where native advertising begins to blur the lines between online and offline.

It’s an exciting time to be in advertising. Everything is changing, but that’s not a bad thing. Those ad agencies that change along with the market, that strive to achieve the top results for their clients and aren’t afraid to take a risk or do something different in order to get consumers talking, will find themselves at the top of their industry.

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Steff Green
Steff Green is one of WorkflowMax's resident wordsmiths, writing everything from website pages to blog posts, ebooks, emails and everything in between. Steff is also an award-winning author, with several fantasy novels available on Amazon. When she’s not writing up a storm, Steff lives on a lifestyle block with her musician husband, two cantankerous cats, several sheep and chickens and her medieval sword collection.

Steff Green