Yes, it has happened – but it was around the dawn of (World Wide Web) time.
I’ve just been reading an article by the people who were involved with the first banner ad displayed on the World Wide Web. Here’s how that looked (it was much larger than this image).
It was created for US telecommunications company AT&T and ran in 1994.
Legend has it that it achieved clickthrough rates of 78%. These days, banners don’t even get 1% CTR in most cases.
Also in 1994, emails had a 100 percent open rate. Even I still remember a time when I opened every email I received and how furious I was if I received a single piece of spam.
So, what does the company that created that first banner think about the banners of today?
G.M. O’Connell, founder of Modem Media didn’t mince words.
“The creativity is disappointing at best.”
With regard to retargeting:
“I get it, but to do the equivalent of tracking a guy out of a shopping mall to his car and jumping on top of his car is what we’re doing on the Web now.”
He believes the online world is not a medium built on intrusion and that “it has to work in the context of what people are trying to accomplish.”
The CEO of HotWired, the site the first banner appeared upon had this to say:
“We get what we pay for, which is a race to the bottom, the commoditization of the media impression.”
I remember being intrigued by banners, even excited at the prospect of clicking on them in order to get something that would hopefully be of some value.
Alas, those days are pretty much over and we (including myself) have ourselves to blame.
Read more of what Modem Media’s banner pioneers have to say about the current state of banners here.