What is the value of a banner ad?

If there is a silver lining to this recession for marketers, it may be the focus on analysis and measurable results.  With every marketing dollar being scrutinized and questions being asked about return on marketing investment, every  tactic is being reevaluated.  For a long time, I have questioned the value of web banners.  They are easy to ignore and, as a result, have lower response rates than other marketing vehicles.  Advocates justify the low response rates by pointing to their relative low cost.  Others say that rich media will breath life into banner ads but I remain unconvinced.

Recent articles make me think I am not the only one.  Mike Shields of Mediaweek wrote about display ads a few weeks ago.  He quoted Greg March of Wieden + Kennedy as saying “Advertisers want to deliver impact, and I don’t think the impact for these ads is always that strong.”  Shields wrote that “click-through rates for banner [ads] rarely approach 1 percent”.  I have seen much smaller rates than that.

A recent BtoB special report on 2009 marketing plans, found that 30.6% of B2B marketers surveyed were planning on increasing their spending on banners.  This sounds promising except that other online tactics had higher growth percentages:  email 68.3%, search 50.0%, web-casting 42.9%, web site development 66.3%, and social media 46.6%. 

With new tools, analysts may be able to measure the impact of online ad campaigns, taking into account every ad served up to the user regardless of whether or not she clicks on it.  Hopefully we will soon be able to answer the question, what is the value of a banner ad?


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