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Karen "Kate" Brutke: Lead Designer/OwnerBanner Ad Perspectives
FROM A DESIGNER'S POINT OF VIEW
By Karen Brutke, the Owner and Lead Designer of BannerScapez.com

Imagine you're a designer confronted with this scenario: A client calls and wants you to create a billboard design with a twist. This billboard must be so attention grabbing and commanding that folks who drive by not only can't miss it, but will also feel compelled to stop, climb up, and stick their credit card in the sign's slot. As if that wasn't enough of a design challenge, the billboard has to be about the size of the digital display on a car radio.

There you have the crux of the banner designer's dilemma: how to captivate the hearts and wallets of Internet consumers within a 468- by 60- pixel space. And the new banner creation must compete against the other banners advertising on just about any given web page banners that are all colorful and catchy and clambering to make the viewer CLICK HERE.

Now let's say you, the designer, have surmounted these hurdles and have knocked your client's socks off with the banner you've created. (See Banner Design Dos & Don'ts to see how this miracle occurred.) What will your client do with this Mighty Mouse advertising tool?

The boundaries of the Internet Banner Advertising world are in a constant state of flux, unlike real world advertising. Real world ad agencies developing for radio, television and print campaigns have long relied on standard systems of gauging costs, based on CPM (Cost Per Mille): an ad's cost is based on how many thousands of ads are placed. Real world advertising isn't just costly, it's also unmanageable: advertisers have no clue as to who, if anyone, bought the product because they saw in the ad. On the other hand, Internet advertising allows for trackable interactivity. Sophisticated tracking software makes it possible to tell exactly how many potential customers have seen a banner (impressions) AND how many of them have actually clicked and followed the link (CTR, or click-through ratio).

Today's smart Internet advertiser wants to know their CTR and they will only pay for advertising based on its productiveness. This is an increasingly important point. As the Internet becomes more and more swamped with banner advertising, banners are becoming less and less effective. CTRs that were in the 8-9 percent range are projected to drop to 2 percent and even 0.5 percent in 1999.

So it's not surprising that more and more Internet advertisers are drifting away from the exorbitant rates some ad agencies are charging and taking control of their own Internet advertising. Many of the free banner networks like bCentral's LinkExchange also offer paid advertising offers that given quite a few of our clients a large bang for the bucks. Then there are response-focused online advertising solution providers like Engage Media (formerly Flycast Communications), who make it possible for just about anyone to manage their own banner ad campaigns in real time. Some even offer programs for testing your banners before you invest in a full campaign. Paid advertising on the major search engines like Yahoo! and Excite have been successful for many of our clients, especially those who are branding and not trying to sell directly on-line. Direct-response advertising clients, who sell things web-wide, have had great results with affiliate programs and paid advertising on targeted, high-volume sites that attract the kinds of viewers most apt to buy their product.

In spite of the costliness, competition, confusion, and drops in CTR, banners are highly likely to be with us for a long time to come. Groups like the Internet Advertising Bureau are working to develop pricing and placement standards. Steadily rising numbers of companies are monitoring user activity and immediately adjusting the content of banner ads to correspond. Although the sparkle of interactive banners (like those that allow a viewer to order something without having to go to the site) is wearing off, new technology and bandwidth increases will make way for fresh design challenges to emerge.

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