Reinventing the Banner Ad

Interactivity encourages users to pay attention

It’s hard to ignore banner ads. But whether your eyes linger—or if you even remember what the ads were promoting—is a different story. In order to get that much-desired attention, companies are turning those page decorations into a participatory activity.

Macy’s recently launched a banner ad campaign for clothing brand Maison Jules that doesn’t rely on static images and text. Its banner ads allow users to scratch and “peel” to reveal 12 different Parisian-themed outfits. Buttons offer options for variety of activities, including watching a video featuring the clothes and the ability to peruse the lookbook.

Best of all? The user doesn’t have to navigate away from the page he or she was on to enjoy the content. But, if so inclined, the user can head to the Macy’s site to purchase the clothing or share the ad campaign on various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.                          

The banner ad was created by startup BlurbIQ, an interactive video unit company trying to reinvent the space.

“We’re inviting consumers to take part in the advertising, where they are going to touch and discover additional brand material, as well as we’re making sure they have a full immersion experience while staying on the publishing page,” BlurbIQ co-founder and CEO Scott Reese said.

BlurbIQ co-founder and chief strategist Derrick Horner said the company realized that if video can contain overlays of interactive content, images should be able to do the same thing. It didn’t have to reinvent the wheel: The concept has been there since the inception of hotlinking.

Macy’s isn’t the only company using this interactive technique. Crispin Porter + Bogusky created a banner campaign for Kraft that encouraged users to "say cheese" in June 2010. Using the computer’s Web cam, the banner ad recognized when the user was smiling and the Mac & Cheese noodle featured in the ad grinned back in response.

Charles Schwab used its banner ad to interact with its customers during the Schwab Live sessions in February. People chatted with Schwab Trading Services team members during an eight-hour livestreamed session. Users could ask questions through a text box placed in the banner ad, which were then answered in real time.

And, Acura’s TLX upcoming digital campaign will feature push-down banner ads that display live-action March Madness coverage during the Final Four games. Coca-Cola tried a similar technique for its TV, Web and mobile ads during the 2012 Super Bowl.

"The same spirit and passion for performance that inspired the development of the TLX is at the heart of the college basketball tournament experience. For players and fans it's the most thrilling time of the year, and it's an ideal platform to build awareness and anticipation for the TLX,” Mike Accavitti, svp and general manager of Acura, said in a statement.

It seems to be working. BlurbIQ reported that on average, the people who saw the Macy’s 300 X 600 IQLayers unit spent an average of 37 seconds clicking on items within the banner ad, and 18.8 percent interacted with the unit, including hovering over it.

However, only 0.034 percent clicked through to the advertiser site. According to DoubleClick by Google, the average digital image-only campaign featuring an ad of the same size gets a 0.32 percent rate.

Where the Macy’s banner ad social media embed won was on Facebook. The average person spent more than three minutes interacting with the unit, and the interaction rate was 921 percent. A surprising 23 percent of users headed over to the Macy’s site.

“People have learned to ignore banner ads because they blend into the publisher page,” Horner said. “People don’t normally click on them. They don’t see them. We’re trying to change that, not only to open their eyes to the banner spot, but to provide a native experience.”

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