Where were you 25 years ago?

Where were you 25 years ago?

Where were you around this time in 1994? Me? I was attending Bowling Green State University and quite possibly having a Zima with a Jolly Rancher tucked inside. For those of you a bit younger, this was basically a handmade White Claw.  Why should we take note? It was a monumental time for digital advertising, as the first ever banner ads launched. The official date was October 27th, 1994 and Zima was among the first 14 brands to simultaneously try out this form of advertising on Wired.com (then known has Hotwired).

Who else was in the group? AT&T was and they came to play with a message that looked like this:

Did people click here? Oh, they did! The ad enticed 44 percent of users to click, a mind bending click thru rate even by today’s standards which is .07%.

Back to Zima, the beverage was a bit more complicated than today’s standards, as you had to unwrap and place the candy to have the flavor, but the advertising was simple. The ad copy for Zima purely read “Refreshment for the mind.” Could you click on it? No, so we have no idea how it performed!

Fast forward to today and digital advertising has become increasingly intricate. We have more options than ever imaginable for targeting, and we have a tremendous amount of options for platforms and products.

I believe one thing remains true as we celebrate the 25th birthday of the banner ad, they still work.   

Display advertising has grown extensively in the last 25 years and now includes strategies like Keyword Targeting, Behavioral Targeting, Retargeting and Artificial Intelligence. Essentially, putting your exact message in front of the exact target audience you want in a precise location.

Other notable (and surprisingly recent) evolutionary moments in digital marketing include:

  • The first ad server NetGravity in 1996
  • The first Google AdWord appeared in 2002
  • The first YouTube ad pre-rolled in 2005
  • The first Facebook ad  went social in 2007

I enjoy a walk down memory lane, and I raise my glass to you Banner ads. As Virginia Slims cigarettes would say (and truth be told I was likely having one with my Zima back in 1994), “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Some things (like my cigarettes) are better left in the past. Banner ads will likely see another 25 years.

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