By Published on .

MARKETERS: Microsoft Corp., Toyota Motor Sales USA

WHERE TO FIND IT: WiredNews, Yahoo!

CRITIQUE: When animated banners first started popping up, there seemed to be an informal rule of thumb that three or four different animated screens was a good threshold.

Which it was. So what's changed? Microsoft Corp. is running a banner for its Web publishing software, Front Page 2000, with nine different screens. Toyota Motor Sales USA is running one with seven screens. The product isn't even mentioned until the sixth screen of the Microsoft ad, and the fourth in the Toyota banner.

While there's no down and dirty formula (but don't you wish that there was somewhere in this industry), it's not too difficult to realize that each time text changes, fewer and fewer people are going to still be watching it. Marketers get a bit of a head start because banners tend to be the first element of a Web page to load. But it's a narrow margin.

The number of screens that will work all hinges on the strength of the creative. The Toyota ad has a fighting chance by drawing readers in with a question and keeping them there with humor. Microsoft's punch line comes too late in the banner to be nearly as effective.

Unlike TV, and to a lesser extent print, banners compete with the content on a site, which means you must get your message out early if you expect the eyeballs to catch it.

WHO CREATED IT: Microsoft: Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco; Toyota: Saatchi &

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