Does anyone still click on them?

What is widely recognized as the first banner ad appeared on Hotwired, Wired magazine's early digital offshoot, in 1994. It was a tricky and manipulative ad from AT&T that set the tone for much of what was to follow.

The ad doesn't look like much, but it stood out from what was the typical Internet experience back then. 

Today, the vast majority of internet users dislike online advertising and actively take steps to block these ads. Here are some statistics that illustrate the current state of online advertising.

  • According to ComScore, more than 5.3 trillion display ads are served-up to Internet users in the United States. That’s one trillion more than in 2009. And while that may seem like a significant increase, it's anemic when compared to the growth of usage of the internet and social media during the same period.
  • The same source also reports that the typical Internet user is served more than 1,700 banner ads per month, yet the average click through rate is only 0.1 percent. That means you have to serve-up 1,000 impressions of an ad to get anyone to click on it.
  • ComScore also reports that only eight percent of Internet users make approximately 85 percent of ad clicks.
  • What's worse than the low rate of online ad clicks is that, according to GoldSpot media, almost half the clicks on mobile banner ads are mistakes.
  • According to a study done by eMarketer, 15 percent of people trust banner ads completely or somewhat, compared to 29 percent for television commercials. In addition, the study reports that 34 percent of people don’t trust banner ads at all or much, compared to 26 percent for print advertising in magazines.

Despite these mediocre results, PwC projects an increase in global online ad spending of approximately $100 billion by 2020.

What's the reason for the projected increase in spending? Are marketers simply throwing away their marketing dollars?   

To the contrary. Data gathering and reporting technology is being developed, implemented and refined that is changing the nature and performance of banner ads. They're moving from irritating online interruptions to smart, helpful, high-tech marketing opportunities. The industry actually predicts there will be a day when people browsing the web or social media will find online ads valuable. The evolution is starting to happen now.

Here are some best practices you can take advantage of to improve your online advertising strategies and ensure your ads enhance your brand and drive business results:

1. Leverage ads as a way to close a sale rather than start the sales process. Retailers use ads to remind online visitors about products they didn't purchase when they visited their site. (For example, a visitor checks out a pair of boots on a retailer's website, but doesn't buy them. The retailer uses online ads to remind the consumer to check out the boots again). This type of “reminder” advertising generates relatively high click rates because viewers have an awareness and familiarity with the product and retailer.

Similarly, financial and professional services marketers can use these types of ads to remind website visitors to complete a transaction, purchase a product or contact the firm. Financial purchases and interactions are complex ones. Most prospects and intermediaries take a significant amount of time to research their options. That's why it makes sense to use follow-up advertising to remind them to revisit a site and re-consider options.

2. Use tight targeting to ensure your ads are relevant. Not everyone is interested in homeowners insurance, retirement planning or investments. However, people who are looking at a real estate site could be good candidates for homeowners coverage. Those reading retirement travel articles are likely interested in retirement income advice. Someone checking out investing tips online are prime candidates for investment products. Placing ads in the right context will make them seem helpful rather than useless clutter. 

3. Clear ads are better than clever ones. One of the primary reasons for poor online advertising click-through rates is because too many people have been suckered into clicking on clever creative that doesn't pay off. A clear and honest advertising message that delivers users to a meaningful solution is the best way to build trust and drive results.

4. One ad isn't a campaign. A single isolated online ad won't drive a sale or conversion. However, a thoughtfully sequenced series of them that moves prospects through the various phases of the conversion process will. 

5. Goals first, strategies second. The only way to develop effective online advertising — and any type of advertising at all — is to know what you want it to accomplish. Developing a campaign with goals in mind, constantly monitoring progress toward those goals and refining the campaign based on results is the only way to achieve marketing success.

6. Keep abreast of emerging artificial intelligence opportunities. Computers that think are getting smarter all the time. It's a good idea to stay on top of developments. After all, your competitors are. If you need help leveraging artificial intelligence in your marketing strategies and campaigns, an experienced agency can help.

Need guidance and support leveraging the latest technology and industry insights to improve your online advertising? Contact Carpenter Group to find out how we can help. We've generated effective online marketing success by developing relevant advertising for clients in the financial and professional services industries for years. See what we can do to improve your results.