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Christie McDougall

Christie McDougall

What did the first ever banner ad look like?

We’ve all seen banner ads at one time or another, and more often than not they are just annoying and have no relevance to us or the page we are visiting. But what about the first banner ad – what did it look like and more importantly, was it any good?

Have a guess at what you think the Click Through Rate (CTR) might have been:

a) 11%
b) 27%
c) 44%

And here’s a copy of the ad…

google banner ads

Now before we give away the answer this ad was from 1994, and it appeared on a website called Hotwired. It had no CTA, no image even – just a curious message. 

And the CTR was 44%! Most marketers would be doing cartwheels down the hallways if they had an average CTR of 44% on Display Ads.

Needless to say, display advertising has come a long way in 23 years, and the landscape is forever changing, especially with the ever growing popularity of Ad Blockers.

When display advertising first surfaced in the world of marketing, many marketers were left with a bad taste in their mouth. The ads we were being presented with a lack of context and value, and as a result, many of us were quick to deem them as untrustworthy. As the years went on and technology advanced, we started looking at display advertising (and digital advertising in general), in a whole new way. For sure, there are still a ton of horrible, spammy ads floating around, but there are also a lot of effective ones.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, banner advertising (also called display advertising) is an image displayed on a third-party website with an embedded link to take visitors from the host website to the advertiser’s website or specified landing page. Businesses can begin a banner advertising campaign with Google Adwords or any other display network.

This isn’t normally used for direct conversions to sales, but rather is used for Branding and Exposure. It is ideal for massive branding, to get your name, logo and message in front of hundreds of thousands of people for a relatively low cost.At TheOnlineCo. we use the Google Display Network (GDN) and this is how it works…

Contextual Targeting

There are 3 types of contextual targeting; keyword, topic and placement targeting.

  1. Keyword contextual targeting involves using relevant keywords to find websites on the Google Display Network that are relevant to your customers.
  2. Topic targeting involves choosing topics that are related to your product or service and showing your ads on the millions of websites that Google has in its network that are relevant to your ideal customer.
  3. Finally, placement targeting involves choosing specific websites in the Google Display Network to show your ads on.

Audience Targeting

Picking the right audience is obviously of paramount importance and there are a number of ways you can ‘locate’ them using Display Advertising.

  1. Interest category marketing is about finding interests that your customers may have, whether they be directly related to your product or service, or perhaps indirectly related.
  2. Demographics based targeting involves selecting people based on their age, gender, location and other demographic data.
  3. Remarketing involves showing ads to people who have already been to your website or engaged with your ads on a previous occasion.
  4. Similar users: Google can even look at your remarketing audience and build a list of similar users for you to market to. This can increase greatly your reach to new potential customers.

There are four phases to a customer’s buying cycle (awareness, interest, consideration, and purchase). Combining Contextual Targeting with Audience Targeting gets best results and display advertising can help build awareness, increase campaign reach, drive conversions and ultimately speed up the purchase cycle


Remarketing allows you to reach people who previously visited your website, providing a powerful way to match the right people with the right message. For example, targeting customers who added items to the online checkout on your website but didn’t complete the purchase.

So the big question then is, how do you create good Display Ads and not nasty spammy ones? It might shock you to know that the average clickthrough rate of display ads across all formats and placements is only 0.06%, 54% of users don’t click banner ads because they don’t trust them, and there are now  198 million active ad block users around the world. That’s the bad news, but don’t panic there is good news too! Users who are retargeted to are 70% more likely to convert, and at TheOnlineCo. we have been able to achieve conversion rates of 25% consistently for some of our clients. The key is to know what you’re doing. Ads that fail, usually do so due to a lack of understanding — both in terms of how to leverage the channel in a way that makes the most sense for a business’ specific goals, and how to master the software required to do so.

We have been managing Google AdWords accounts for a long time now, with clients from all sorts of industries, both big and small. We are also Google Badged Partners, which is the highest level of accreditation. It means we get invited to all of their training events and have access to all of their online resources. Most importantly we have our own Google Relationship Manager who we consult with several times a week. This means our relationship with Google will always help our clients get the very best Google AdWords and Google Display Network results because we always use Google’s Best Practices. If you would like to start a Display Ads or Adwords campaign for your business be sure to give us a call for a free consultation!



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Christie McDougall
Christie McDougall

Christie is our Digital Strategy manager and looks after our playbook process. Although she is most skilled in Social Media and PPC and helped TheOnlineCo. achieved Facebook Marketing Partner status, she has a comprehensive and thorough knowledge of marketing in a digital world. She uses her talents in strategy and planning to help clients understand exactly how to grow their business online and have all their marketing efforts pulling together in a collaborative effort, thereby achieving scale and cost efficiencies.

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