A few weeks ago a user noted on news.admin.net-abuse.misc that the best argument that unsolicited commercial email (UCE) and spamming newsgroups simply don't work is that large companies that advertise heavily on the net, like IBM and Microsoft, don't spam.
The advertising method of choice by companies that don't want to piss off potential customers is the banner ad. While opposition to UCE approaches unanimity, a study sponsored by Wired Magazine's HotWired cyberzine found that only ten percent of netizens are opposed to banner ads.
Half a decade ago netizens were hyper-conscious about bandwidth because the vast majority of net traffic was carried on publicly funded networks. Netizens, most of them ultimately dependent on the public purse, were all too aware that government funds are a finite resource.
HotWired should know what it's talking about. The E-zine introduced those colorful inch-high, screen-wide billboards in late 1994. Yes, I do remember a time when Yahoo didn't have banner ads.
Banner ads have found general acceptance because they are solicited. No one forces you to read web pages. Most highly useful sites wouldn't exist it if it weren't for ads. The primary opposition to banner advertising is they hog common resources. A page might be 10 K of text. An ad can triple the amount of data that has to be borne by the Internet's backbone networks.
It's a valid argument ... from 1992. It carries little less weight today. Half a decade ago netizens were hyper-conscious about bandwidth because the vast majority of net traffic was carried on publicly funded networks. Netizens, most of them ultimately dependent on the public purse, were all too aware that government funds are a finite resource. Today the backbones are in commercial hands, Sprint's a biggie, and commercial interests are more than willing to meet demand.
Probably the biggest opposition to banners ads is from advertisers themselves. Like many things netish, business made a quick rush to the net expecting massive profits, and retreated when the mega-bucks didn't materialize. Companies snapped up prime ad spots on high traffic sites, expecting to siphon that traffic to their own sites. Advertisers experienced rates of what is known as "click through" as low as 1%.
Sites and advertisers trying to reach a theoretically money- and time-laden audience had to rethink the paradigm. The notion of click through has given way to the concept of the "impression" -- a fancy way of saying the number of users who view the ad. Many web sites sell space based on impression, not click through. After all, is it a billboard company's fault the advertiser has a lousy ad?
Click through is important to many webvertisers. A number of strategies have been devised to increase the likelihood of you getting caught up in the company's web page. A banner ad with a simple "click this" can increase traffic. Really.
The advent of the animated GIF standard has been a boon to webvertisers. Animated ads can increase click-through rates by 40%.
Ads that relate in some way to the material viewed can triple or quadruple response rates. Many search engines like Yahoo allow advertisers to purchase words and phrases users might search on. Yahoo charges $1000 per month per word. For example, one particularly enterprising extermination company has purchased the word "hantavirus" on Yahoo. In case you're not familiar with the hantavirus, it's the current "in disease", spread by deer mice. It wiped out 26 people in the American Southwest in 1993. It's probably going to be the lyme disease of the `90s. Anyone who searches on Yahoo for information on the hantavirus, will always an ad for a product called the "Rat Zapper".
If you ask me paranoia, not webvertising, is the hot marketing trend for the end of the millennium.
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Copyright 2002 Karl Mamer
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