It’s hard to imagine a world without digital advertising oozing from every corner of every screen on the planet. Digital advertising has become so prevalent that it has become as common as a housefly. But, if everything has a starting point, where did digital advertising begin and where is it now? Let’s take a look beginning in 1994.
It All Started With A Banner Ad
The banner ad that’s widely described as the first ever was a little rectangle purchased by AT&T on HotWired.com in 1994.
This innocuous little piece of code simply asked the audience if they have ever clicked their mouse here, which led them to text telling them they would click their mouse there. And people did!
It had a reported and envious Click Through Rate (CTR) of 44%. Compare that with today’s average CTR of 0.05 % and you get a sense of how remarkable that achievement is.
Banner blindness is a real thing because we have become jaded and unaffected by decades of swirling lights and cute kittens.
There have been innovative and elaborate attempts to deliver the right ad, to the right person, at the right time. Enter Geo-targeting, Demo-targeting, Behavioral targeting, Re-targeting, IP targeting, Audience targeting, Topic targeting, and Contextual targeting. Ay Caramba!
The Digital Marketplace
In order to buy and sell ad space, Ad Networks were developed. Then, Ad Exchanges. Along with the platforms, various models for buying and selling Digital Ads emerged. CPM, CPA, CPC, CPV, vCPM.
Let’s not forget, my millennial friends, that mobile devices haven’t always been here. Display ad publishers and advertisers had to adapt to these new formats.
Video was and is an important player in the Digital Advertising space. Humans flat out LOVE video and interact with it very well.
According to Invesp, “Video ads have an average click-through rate (CTR) of 1.84%, the highest click-through rate of all digital ad formats. 75% of advertisers stated that online video ads were equally or more effective than traditional television ads.”
Not quite the CTR of the first Display Ad but heading in the right direction.
Other Advertising Tools
Paid Search (PPC) was developed to meet people where they were. As they searched, users were provided with relevant results. Surprisingly though, Google didn’t pioneer paid search ads. Open Text did, in 1996. GoTo (later Overture, later Yahoo!) resurrected the idea in 1998, launching a search engine where all the results were sold to the highest bidder.
I had the privilege of working for Overture and then Yahoo! and I’ll never forget a colleague telling me to do a search on Google. “What’s a Google?” was my less than clever response. I think I may have said, “What’s a Facebook?” when I worked for MySpace. What I lack in prophetic ability I certainly make up for in great experiences.
Along with the development of Social Media came the natural development of Social Advertising. The concept of finding people where they gather and delivering relevant content via advertising vehicles is a valid concept.
According to WordPress via MarketingProfs, “The average conversion rate for Facebook ads across all industries is 9.21%.”
The future is uncertain but I can predict this, Digital Advertising ain’t going away. Who says I’m not prophetic?