Jane Ostler

Some news reports are down-playing the interest and importance of banner advertising in driving forward online branding activity on the Web.

Certainly the Internet offers more branding opportunities than the simple banner.

Unlike other media, there are no rules; we can introduce new types of ad like brandbytes, mini-sites, meta-ads and push formats. Then there are sponsorship and content tie-ups. And when you add audio and time-of-day targeting, the possibilities become almost endless.

But the central role banner advertising enjoys in attracting Web revenue remains undisputed. It has become an accepted form, with its own currency and language.

It has to be admitted that there are still big gaps in our knowledge about how they work. But there are techniques emerging to help us improve both the creative work and media planning of campaigns.

Take a campaign, which is clearly aimed at maximising “click-throughs” from your banner ad at a busy Website to your client’s own site. Average industry click rates are quoted at two per cent, but good creative techniques and better targeting can boost this significantly.

You can start to improve impact by testing various creative executions on different sites to improve click rates. Or you can split two executions and rotate them on the same site to see which achieves the better result. In the US there are ad networks like Doubleclick, which will run tests for you.

To test the efficiency of online media planning, you can target your audience by distributing banners across a number of sites. If some sites, or search engine categories, don’t perform, you can pull them from the schedule a few hours later.

But while these feedback techniques are being developed fast in the US, they will only work in the UK if reporting techniques from Website owners improve too.

Click-throughs may be extremely measurable, but they are not necessarily that useful for assessing the success of all banner campaigns.

Web advertising objectives vary, from broadcasting a brand to one-to-one marketing. High levels of brand awareness can be achieved through campaigns without generating high volumes of click-throughs – a point demonstrated by research conducted by Millward Brown and the Electronic Telegraph, and sponsored by O&M, which was published last month.

The key point is to ensure that banner campaigns, or sponsored Web content, produces consistent impact for its brand.

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