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Long Live the Banner? Not Right Now

According to new research released today by the AdRelevance division of Media Metrix, the majority of all online ad banners have short life spans, running on average three weeks or less.

The implications of this are mixed. While short campaigns offer specific targeting and immediate results for direct marketing, there are questions as to whether or not these types of campaigns are the most effective.

"While most advertisers are running relatively short campaigns, shorter campaigns are not necessarily better campaigns," says Charlie Buchwalter, vice president of media research at AdRelevance.

Marc Ryan Director of Media Rearch for the company agrees. According to Ryan, many advertisers judge the effectiveness of their banners largely on click through.

"Obviously if a banner is not doing to well you might decide to pull it after a week or two. But there's a problem with that, because you might end up sidelining some potentially good banners when it comes to branding perspective," says Ryan.

Because online advertising is still in its infancy, a number of questions have yet to be sorted out. Among others, judging the proper metric to measure effectiveness has yet to be perfected by the online advertising industry.

"It's very important to understand why you're pulling a banner and why you're replacing it with something else," says Ryan. "If you are doing it based on click throughs, then you could be removing a banner that could have potentially longer term impact."

The only way to evaluate long-term impact, especially when it comes to branding is to talk to consumers. According to Ryan there are a number of companies who currently offer this type of survey service online.

"Collecting data involves a big process, whereas click through is part of the system and is automated," says Ryan. "As the systems become more and more integrated into the serving process, and into the way people decide to schedule their banners to run, it's going to become a much smarter, much better market."

In fact, the report findings, which analyzed standard 468x60 banner ad campaigns on the top 500 Web sites between July 1999 and June 2000, show that online advertisers may be able to learn a lesson from the automotive industry, who's online ads were found to run the longest, an average of 7.8 weeks. This is almost twice as long as the average banner duration for a hardware and electronics ad, which typically lasts 4.1 weeks.

"When you look at the automotive industry, they have been around for a long time, and have been a pretty powerful force when it comes to offline media. They have a lot of experience in the media planning process," says Ryan.

In addition, he notes: "The automotive industry has been on the Internet a little longer than some of the other categories. I think there has been a lot of lessons learned."