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Banner ads go back a long way. In fact, the very first banner ad appeared on hotwired.com (now Wired.com) on 27 October, 1994. The copy read: “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You will.” And there was an arrow pointing to the right-hand side of the ad.

To say that the ad was successful is an understatement. In the first four months of its existence, 44% of those who saw it clicked on it. How CEOs would kill for that sort of click-through rate in today’s online advertising campaigns, eh? Certainly the client, AT&T, were impressed.

Let’s put that stat into perspective. Research tells us that only around 4 people out of every 10,000 click on a banner advert these days. Or, put another way, why did that first banner ad generate more clicks with 10 impressions than the average banner ad in 2015 generates with 10,000 impressions (besides that it was a new concept and piece of advertising content that no one had ever seen before)?

So why was that original banner ad so powerful and effective?

Upon close examination, there are 3 priceless lessons we can learn.

1. Your banner ad must be part of an integrated marketing campaign

What you won’t learn from looking at that original banner ad is that, for two years before the ad went live, a lot of effort went into promoting the two words ‘you will’. AT&T invested a lot of time and effort into market research, not to mention around $50million on TV, radio and print adverts, all in the effort of promoting the concept of ‘you will’.

2. The user experience is just as important as the message

You can create the most succinct, efficient piece of copy ever, but if the user experience behind the message is awful, the ad won’t accomplish what you need it to.

AT&T wanted that banner to give users a memorable experience. To that end, a lot of work went into creating a virtual tour of the world’s greatest museums. And as they knew the ad would appear in the arts section of hotwired.com, I’d say that’s pretty relevant.

3. Be better than your competition

There were hardly any advertising agencies focusing on hotwired.com back then, so it was ‘relatively’ easy to make an impression. Well, the opportunities were more readily available at least.

Things are very different now, as we all know. Put the customer at the forefront of your campaign and make sure you’re delivering something worthwhile and memorable through your banner ad. Get creative and steal a march on your rivals.

Topics: Banner Ads, Display Ad Design, AT&T, HotWired.com

Adam Parikh

Written by Adam Parikh

In a 13+ year career on the forefront digital marketing, I have proven to be an online marketer and ecommerce professional that delivers results. My deepest knowledge lies in Search (PPC + SEO) and Display (Programmatic, RTB, DSP). I am also well versed in email, affiliate, comparison shopping engines and social media marketing.