Are Banner Ads Poised for Creative Renaissance?


NEW YORK Slowly but surely signs are emerging of a long-awaited creative infusion into the woebegone banner ad. Technology constraints are lifting, more top agencies are focusing their creative energies on building display ads and publishers are giving advertisers a larger canvas.

This week Visa is rolling out an ambitious banner campaign as part of its "Go" push. In what could be a first, Visa digital shop AKQA has built display units that beam live video from five cities worldwide, showing people "going" in places including Times Square in New York and Wenceslas Square in Prague. Viewers can flip between cities within the unit and even control the camera angle.

Another Visa banner will "sniff out" the user's location and time of day to provide food suggestions. For example, a user could see, "It's 8:14 a.m., why not go for a treat?" Rolling over the ad unit shows a map with, say, nearby coffee shops. In coming months, Visa plans to show recommendations from Fandango, LastFM, OpenTable and Daily Candy of movies, concerts, restaurants and sample sales based on user preferences with those sites and user locations.

"If you want people to take notice, it should be interactive and there should be some kind of take-away or something that gives some kind of utility in their lives," said Bob Pullum, group cd at AKQA in San Francisco.

In the nearly 15 years since HotWired sold the first banner ad to AT&T, much has changed in Internet advertising. Yet many of the innovations in display ads have happened on the technology side, particularly how they are bought, sold and targeted.

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