Confessions of a Banner ManPosted in Audience Targeting, Blog Post, Digital Marketing Tech, insight, video
The first step is to admit it. I was a banner man. My gateway drug was the thrill of rich-media-fueled engagement when I worked at RichFX. I went hardcore banner at Eyeblaster. I completely lost my head in the opium den that was Turn, the ad network turned DSP turned DMP. In my hopscotching around the Luma slide I lied to a lot of people, most importantly, I lied to myself.
You see… I’ll come right out and say it, the banner as we know it is not the evolution of advertising and is not how brands should communicate to their audiences. I know that I’m not the first person to say this. There have been many who have predicted the demise of the banner, and I’m not even suggesting that, the big media agencies have too much invested in the model to let it disappear. What I’m saying is banners don’t really work well, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
At Turn I propagated the myth that data was the magic to making the banner work. By leveraging the right data we could arrive at the nirvana of the right message, at the right time, at the right place. Bidding on impression-level media in real time meant zero media waste. It also meant that the consumer experience would improve because only relevant brand messages would be served along side content. It ultimately meant higher ROI to brands.
The problem with the myth is that it never materialized. Though RTB proved to be an efficient way for agencies to buy cheap remnant inventory and burn through budgets, no amount algorithmic power could make a RTB campaign approach the performance of a simple remarketing campaign. The data was either too granular or unreliable, or the campaign’s scale to small to properly optimize. Ironically, the algorithm that I championed seemed to think that www.blackpeoplemeet.com had the ideal impressions for nearly every single brand campaign we ran*. And the sissy slap fight between the premium publishers and the demand-side platforms is worse than Republicans and Democrats in congress. It’s no wonder we still aren’t seeing the floodgates of brand dollars spill online.
But this isn’t even the biggest problem. It’s the banner itself… boring, flat, .gif duds that consumers have long since taught themselves to ignore. No amount of data-driving targeting can overcome the lowly banner’s inability to generate attention online. Rich media, especially video, has proven to be reliable in grabbing eyeballs online, but despite what you might hear, RTB offers no scale for video. So in 2015 when half of all online media is bought dynamically, as some have predicted, expect the ratio of crappy .gifs ads to engaging video ads to increase. May be dynamic creative fueled by a brand’s own proprietary data is a solution, but alas, where’s the scale?
The banner has left me in an existential morass… I saw Eyeblaster change its name MediaMind and go public. I then left Turn last December as they were reposition themselves as a data platform. I briefly considered jumping ship to another DSP, MediaMath, or even going to data provider Experian, but alas decided that I must break the cycle of self destruction. It’s high time that I pursue my dream to change advertising. For six months I have been hiding outside Terry Kawja’s sight. I’ve let this blog go dark, haven’t had much to say on twitter, basically I’ve been spending my time trying to crack the code. I’m not there yet, but I know it involves brands only trusting their data, and coherently telling stories across earned, owned and paid media channels. I also know that video is the skeleton key to making it all work.
*Please don’t mistake this as a racist remark. Some of my best friends are victims of poor targeting online.