Banner ads suck, say guys who invented banner ads

time square ads

Digital Trends underwent a major redesign about two months ago, and chances are if you’ve been reading our stories on your computer, you’ve already learned to block out that rectangle above and to the right of this copy. We’re conditioned to recognize banner ads as soon as we spot them, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying. It’s safe to say that no one likes banner ads – no one, not even the creators of banner ads themselves, who admit to regretting their invention in the first place.

The creators in question are G.M. O’Connell, Bill Clausen, Joe McCambley, and Andrew Anker; together, the four were responsible for the Web’s first banner ad for AT&T that ran on HotWired Web magazine in 1994. In an interview with Digiday, O’Connell calls banner ads’ migration from the Web to mobile platforms a joke. “The creativity is disappointing at best. It’s easy for me to say it sucks, but I don’t know what the better thing is,” he said. “Most [banners] aren’t serving value. They’re in the business of interrupting what you’re doing.”

O’Connell also noted that targeted advertising is more “creepy” than helpful, and finds the tactic intrusive. McCrambley, on the other hand, likens banner ads to telemarketers. “Ours is an industry that kills the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said. “I don’t even answer my land line anymore, because the only ones who call it are telemarketers. If advertisers can make the phone suck, imagine what they’ll do to content marketing.”

Back in February, McCambley also posted a blog on Harvard Business Review citing that his children say it’s like he “invent[ed] smallpox,” and instead of using banner ads the way they run now, marketers need to get smarter and more creative about how to advertise. “To remain relevant to consumers who spend hours each day focused on smaller screens trying to get stuff done, marketers will have to think like publishers and technology companies,” McCambley wrote. “They’ll need to ask consumers, ‘How can we help you?’ instead of ‘What can we sell you?'”

Perhaps that’s why viral video marketing work so well. Instead of customers being downright exposed to blatant ads, they are subconsciously sharing advertisements when they are able to find pleasure and amusement out of heartfelt or funny ads. Most viral videos don’t even inject themselves upon the viewers, but rather they’re the one seeking them out when there are enough buzz. It makes viewers more aware of the brand, even if they don’t plan on buying its product.

Having the creators of banner ads admit their invention has destroyed Internet marketing is a sad revelation, but from the way we’re watching our sales team work, it doesn’t look like this annoying method of advertising will go away any time soon. At least we can be thankful these ads are no longer pop-ups or blinking.


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