Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Perfect Banner Ad - Envisioned Before the Web Existed

In my first posting here, I addressed how “banner blindness” was neither new nor confined to advertising on the web. Now I’d like to propose that the creative thinking behind what makes an effective banner ad is also not new.

Hard to believe, perhaps, but the perfect banner ad was described about 25 or 30 years ago, a good 15 years before the earliest adopters tip-toed onto the World Wide Web.

At least that's my belief. I wish I could remember when it was, exactly, but sometime in the late '70s or early '80s (which would make it even earlier than Max Headroom and the cloak-and-dagger secrecy behind the life-threatening blipvert) a feature story appeared in Advertising Age in which a creative executive from J. Walter Thompson attempted to get out ahead of the trend to ever-shorter TV commercials.

At the time, 60-second spots had already given way to 30-second spots and there was growing use of the 10-second spot. This story tried to anticipate what a 3-second commercial might be like.

Using then-JWT client Monroe shock absorbers as the example advertiser, the prototype 3-second spot consisted of a continuous image with three distinct “moments.”

In the opening second, a toy car enters from frame left, bouncing harshly on its suspension and heading for a box emblazoned in the Monroe logo.

In the next second, the car is inside the box and we get a strong look at the logo.

In the third and final second, the car emerges from the right end of the box and glides oh-so-smoothly toward frame right.

Three seconds. Message delivered.

Now, wouldn't that be an awesome banner ad? No click-through required (no need...the message is in the banner), enough movement to catch your eye (without resorting to frantic dancers or other cheap devices) and a message that's clear enough to be obvious to anyone who might give it no more than a peripheral glance.

Like my good friend and strategic marketer Curt Westlake says in his blog, we may have fancy new tools to use, but it's still all about the basics.

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