The News Of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated! -The Banner

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The Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell-side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jim Spanfeller, CEO, Spanfeller Media Group, a new age media company.

There has been much talk lately about the demise of the banner as an effective communications tool. These conversations can be self-centered, pointless, naïve, or all of the above. We know with great certainty that banner ads work. There are literally warehouses of research measuring and supporting their efficacy to drive brand lift… and of course the CPW (cost per whatever) data speaks for itself.

I find it amusing that often times the very practitioners of advertising science will sit back and suggest that brand lift studies (Dynamic Logic, Insight Express, Vizu) are somehow less accurate because a vast majority of them show lift. What was it they were expecting? Advertising works. And thank God it does because if it didn’t, most people reading this post would not have a job.

What these studies do highlight, though, is that some specific campaigns work better than others. Which is a fairly straightforward thought. Some creative is better, some campaigns are planned better, and some core products start out with a sturdier base. All things considered, the banner does a fine job of delivering a marketer’s message. The quality of the message, the halo effect of the environment that the message is delivered in, the frequency of the unit, and the precision of the targeting, will all have a hand in determining just how well that message works.

To all those folks out there suggesting that the banner is dead and will slowly cease to walk the face of the earth, I simply say, come on – get real. I am not inferring that “native advertising” is not a good idea. It is and has always been an interesting additional arrow in the marketer’s quiver. But the banner sets a fundamental stage for any well-integrated brand campaign.

As is often the case in situations like this, the past is a prologue for the present… or perhaps even the future. Early television advertising was dominated by soap operas, clearly a form of native advertising. And who among us of a certain age can forget Mutual of Omaha’s "Wild Kingdom"? Today, television networks are littered with infomercials, magazines and newspapers carry “special sections”, and radio has the ubiquitous “content doughnut” opportunity. But wait; were these units able to generate “earned media”? Sure they were. It was more difficult to say the least, but like so many other things that the digital ecosystem has enhanced, “earned media” is not a new concept.  It is simply easier to achieve in an interconnected medium.

The banner is alive and well, thank you very much, along with countless other communication devices. What we now have to do is become better at using it. Do bigger units work better than smaller ones?  For the most part sure. Do we need to understand consumer tolerance and not overwhelm end users with too big or too many units? Absolutely, but this is true no matter what the unit of delivery is. One can easily argue that some native advertising is simply over the top in its attempt to “trick” the consumer - a tough thing to do in this day and age, and a practice that, if noticed, could have severe repercussions to the marketer.

I sometimes just want to say to everyone, “Can’t we all just get along”? Does one thing have to be bad for another to be good?  Aside from sounding silly, all we really do with these hyperbolic arguments is cause more confusion and thus push the time when digital will be the top dog in ad spending further away.

The banner works just fine. Native advertising is A-Okay, search is fine, retargeting has a place, and so on and so forth. What is clear is that no one discipline satisfies every marketer need.  Search is not great at creating consumer demand. Retargeting will not do a great job of expanding your reach. Punch the monkey ads will… well let’s just leave that one alone.

Follow Jim Spanfeller (@JimSpanfeller) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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