Why Web advertisers need to readjust their priorities

Although ADSL will help Net advertisers to move on from the banner ad, they must first find the key to consumers’ behaviour online.

Humour me for a second and take a step back. No matter which media you choose to examine, advertising in its simplest form is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. And it is the power of the creative treatment contained therein that holds the key to good marketing. Enter online advertising stage right, billed as the next panacea and every marketer’s dream.

And yet for a medium that, according to Forrester Research, is bigger than direct mail, outdoor and cinema advertising, it has had its share of negative publicity in recent months.

Too many of these complaints are about banners misdirecting consumers away from content. Add to this the grumblings about the lack of a comprehensive system to measure online demand, and it seems the proverbial can of worms has been opened.

Few business commentators have missed the irony that for a medium that is arguably the most accountable in terms of return on investment, its limitations in measurement techniques are its undoing.

Everyone has his or her own opinion about banner ads but they still remain the most common way to drive traffic to a site with, according to eMarketer, over 45 per cent of advertisers currently using them. With click-through rates dropping in recent months to less than one per cent, it is clear that a high volume of traffic is no good unless it is the right kind of traffic.

Cost-per-click deals are only relevant for certain types of campaign, and have never been a genuine benchmark of success. Engage Technologies, for example, now advocates the fact that banners with the highest click-through rate only lead to the highest rate of conversion into sales 14 per cent of the time, with 32 per cent of transactions or registrations coming from users who view a banner ad but do not click.

Branding on the Internet takes time and repeated exposure, so volume will still have a place to a degree but the emphasis will remain on creativity and targeting. Advertisers must look beyond the banner. Pop-up ads such as interstitials, superstitials and transition ads are a step in the right direction, but innovations such as Flash animation and streaming audio and video also generate interest and response. The advent of ADSL (assymetrical digital subscriber line) will improve standards further as the Internet at long last gets the bandwidth to compete with traditional broadcast media.

The industry has a vested interest in devising new and accountable methods of personalising messages to their customers. But the ultimate test will be to analyse and understand the increasingly sophisticated behaviour of consumers online and how they react to different messages. As more research tools become readily available, those packaged goods advertisers previously slow to adopt the medium will start to divert significant investment to it.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here