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An Art Director’s Rant on the Infamous Banner Ad

The Influencers 287 Add to collection

INFLUENCER: Let’s get creative and work out a better way to advertise, says Magnum Opus Partners' Pat Langton

An Art Director’s Rant on the Infamous Banner Ad

To start, I am an art director by trade and not a copywriter, so bare with me... No art director should be allowed to write this much copy, but I felt I needed to get something off my chest. I’ll be honest, it’s a rant.

I just want to state that I think digital advertising has huge potential. But whoever invented the leaderboard banner ad needs to be shot (It was Modem Media and they don’t really exist anymore, so let’s consider them dead). But they left their mark on the web forever. That was back in 1994. To put that in perspective, here’s a few things that happened in that year; Justin Bieber was born, Kurt Cobain died (fuck, a music legend leaves us and the world gives us Justin Bieber), Bill Clinton was President and I was 13 years old. If you look at the banner ad below, you can see that it has pretty much stayed the same for 20 years.

Fitting any headline or image into one of these things is almost impossible. It’s like trying to fit a Nintendo 64 game cartridge into a PS4 - it just won’t fit and you’re an idiot for trying. Now there are some banner sizes I actually don’t mind, the problem is we cram so much into these tiny spaces that the ad ends up being a mess.

Now onto the 'call to action' - shouldn’t this be the product benefit or the insight into the consumer? As if consumers (aka people aka our audience) don’t know that you can click on these ads by now - I mean it’s been over 20 years since the first banner ad. Surely people know by now that they can click on it? Keeping in mind that 0.08% of people actually click on banner ads anyway, so what’s the point of putting ‘buy now’ or ‘click here for more info’ anyway? It’s just another useless element to try and fit into a tiny space. Like as if we needed to put a super on a TV ad saying 'WATCH NOW' or 'READ HERE' on a print ad.

Let’s be real here, the animated banner is stupid. People are scrolling, reading or watching. Having an ad that your audience may only see half of your message is just plain idiotic. It’s one of those cases where just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The idea of an animated banner is so you can fit more shit on your ad. What happened to ‘a single minded proposition’? It’s like we’ve thrown this idea out the window when it comes to a banner ad. 

With all the shit Google/Facebook is getting at the moment, I’m really not surprised. Could you imagine telling your client 'we're going to do an outdoor billboard campaign, we'll have no idea where or when these will be placed but we’ll give you a detailed breakdown of all the stats'? It just wouldn’t happen!

We have to stop treating our audience like idiots and treat them like people. I won’t get started on the whole ad blocker thing as that is an entirely different story and one we need to address, I’m just not sure how. We need to go back to our roots on what a banner ad is. We need to start treating banner ads as if they were a print ad, as if a person is reading through a magazine and will stumble across an ad while reading an article. If the ad is good enough they might actually engage in it.

I guess my point is that banner ads have barely evolved for 20 odd years and it’s time for a change. There’s almost no room on a banner ad to do anything creative, so let’s kill the banner ad and do something worthwhile in the online space. Some publishers have started to redesign their page to accommodate a space that is big enough to use, but I still think there’s a long way to go. One other detail I need to mention: no one ever has said ‘Oh, did you see that cool banner campaign the other day?’

There’s plenty of room. Let’s get creative and work out a better way to advertise.



Pat Langton is creative director/partner of Magnum Opus Partners, Melbourne

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Magnum Opus Partners, Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:08:33 GMT