Tenth birthday of the humble banner advert

Tenth birthday of the humble banner advert
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November 7, 2004 Oh no, we missed another birthday. This time it was the tenth birthday of the humble banner advert. On October 25, 1994 the first banner advert appeared on HotWired. Interestingly, it did not make news and the whole world missed it, probably because it seems to have been around longer than that. And whereas the fledgling industry of 1994 had trouble explaining what the internet was, the internet will account for 3.5% of global advertising expenditure in 2004.

The AT&T advert's slogan was "Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?" and the advert was created in the 468 x 60 pixel format because it suited the site's layout.

For the record, the ad was created for Modem Media/AT&T by TANGENT Design/Communications and courtesy of Adland

The advert's principal creators were Joe McCambley, Craig Kanarick and Otto Timmons.

Timmons wrote on Adland recently, "although we had the most popular ad on Hotwired there were at least five or six other banner ads that launched at the same time and they too should get credit for being "first". I can remember Club Med, AT&T and ZIMA.

"Last but not least, O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator, GNN, started accepting paid advertising at the same time (one banner ad on the home page, as I recall)."

Of course in 1994 if you were using the internet, you were either in tertiary education or the military and the web was beginning the spectacular growth which now sees it heading for a billion users (to be reached some time in mid-2005). The Computer Industry Almanac expects the use population will reach nearly 935 million by the end of 2004.

In those early years there weren't a lot of banner advertisements around, and for a time the novelty drove pricing upwards. Interactive advertising agencies commonly claimed 25+% click-through rates.

Ten years on, the banner's subsequent siblings, such as the pop-up, pop-under, superbanners, interstitials and text adverts are all competing for attention. People have grown weary of the bombardment and click-through figures are wayyyyyy less than 1%.

When the banner was first sold, it was sold mainly in CPM (cost per thousand banner impressions), and average banner rates sold in this way reached an all-time high of around UKP75 before the bubble burst. It is unlikely that average banner rates will ever reach such levels again.

Similarly, advertising on the internet is now increasingly sold on a performance basis, being mainly straight pay-per-click and hybrid performance reward schemes.

And whereas the fledgling industry of 1994 had trouble explaining what the internet was, a decade down the track global internet advertising expenditure will account for 3.5% of all advertising spend in 2004 according to Zenith Media.

What's more, the internet has already grown larger than the outdoor advertising market in some countries and is expected to pass radio advertising expenditures in the key UK market within three years.

Just where internet advertising will stand in the ad expenditure mix a decade from now is debatable. Newspaper and TV revenues seem certain to fall as a percentage of the overall spend and mobile media will no doubt fragment expenditure in myriad ways over the next ten years.

The banner advert will almost certainly still see its 21st birthday though.

The Internet Advertising Bureau has very useful internet advertising statistics available free of charge at The most recent full-year report has some fascinating information showing the rise and fall and subsequent rise of internet advertising revenues in its first ten years, illustrating the devastation of the tech wreck, and the recovery which now sees the internet returning to favour with marketers.

Equally fascinating is the accompanying chart, also from the IAB report, comparing growth over the first decade for Internet Advertising (1995-2003) charted against broadcast television (1949-1957) and cable television (1980-1988), presented in current dollars. Internet advertising revenues surpassed cable television revenues in its fourth year of growth, and broadcast television revenues in its fifth year of growth. However, broadcast television revenues regained the lead in year eight.

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