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I Was Wrong: Banner Ads Aren't Dead

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The creative canvas is no longer just a 30-second spot or a lame banner ad.  - Jeff Rosenblum, The Naked Brand

In 2006, in a Forbes article titled "Death of the Banner Ad?," I said banner ads were doomed. Today I'd like to go on the record and say: I was wrong. Banners not only don't have to be lame, they can deliver experiences (and results!) that are amazing.

At the time, I thought high-impact skins and branded content were the future of digital advertising. Banner ads appeared to lose their value. Inventory skyrocketed thanks to social platforms and we all saw effectiveness plummet. Pricing dropped through the floor. No one wanted to punch the monkey, take a survey or win a free prize.

But banners weren't dead; they just needed to evolve. Creative matters more than ever. And creative banners can actually be a powerful part of the storytelling experience.

At SAY, we've crafted more than 25,000 pieces of creative with some of the best minds in advertising. As a result, we’ve learned how to create successful banner ads that take into consideration a blend between art and science - and we don’t waste valuable advertising dollars.

We believe that by delivering engaging experiences to people where they spend time online and on their digital devices, we can support the advertiser's brand objectives. We believe by creating an invitation that is polite and that allows people to raise their hand and say, "I want to be a part of this," our banners become accountable and efficient media. We believe that by tapping into emotion and creating a deeper connection with the audience we respect their intelligence. Branded content is a great tactic to do this, but we shouldn't forget about the power of the banner.

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Check out this multiscreen takeover with custom navigation for British Telecom that allows audiences to use scrolling arrows to explore the apartment of 20-something roommates and get a glimpse into the details of their lives (and how their lives are improved with BT) via hotspots. A display ad for Canon takes people behind the camera lens through a stunning photo gallery with insider tips and tricks about how to capture a similar shot, effectively creating an experience that’s both engaging and educational.

Amstel Light worked with Gear Patrol to create a compelling four part series called Drafting It that showcases local entrepreneurs discussing how their life passions inspired them to create successful businesses. The initiative was designed to connect with consumers on a more emotional and complex level and assumed, correctly, that audiences want to think and be challenged. P&G Future Friendly uses video in a takeover to show audiences how to Find Beauty in Everyday Objects and remind them that buying food from local markets is just one way to take care of ourselves and the environment. In addition, tips about waste, water, and energy allow users to get more information, without ever having to leave the page.

These are just a few examples of some of our recent creative work, and there are many, many more. We're proud of the work we’ve been doing because we truly have created a richer experience for both advertisers and audiences.

A few weeks ago Google announced it was entering the space we pioneered with their new ad format called Lightbox, a standard ad unit that expands into a takeover after a user hovers over the ad. Sounds familiar. We love that Google is finally embracing the engagement model and delivering rich media experiences.

It's a great validation of what we've been practicing for years. Deliver strong accountable experiences. Create a deeper connection with your audience while giving them control. We also try to take it a step further, by making those solutions experiential, empowering and meaningful. Turns out, banner ads don’t have to be annoying. They can actually be incredibly entertaining.

David Tokheim is SVP of Media Solutions at SAY Media.

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