The splash that Intimate Brands made as it dove into offline promotion for its Victoria's Secret online venture hinted at--albeit incorrectly--massive changes in 1999. We had expected to see offline companies pouring ad dollars into the online world. Instead, dot-coms flooded the offline ad world, advertising in any medium that could stand still long enough to take their money. It extended to roving billboards, so even standing still wasn't a requirement after all.
You can never look too far back in the online world, but here are some ads and ideas we feel worked in 1999, and some thoughts on how they, too, might serve as examples for the year to come.
Banner space: We're sympathetic to the challenge of creating a significant brand message in 468 by 60 pixels. The important point, however, is that it's not the fault of the banner space itself. Much more can be done to effectively use this type of advertising. Onsale's use of Macromedia's Flash Generator technology to put real-time auction bids in the banners was a shining example of making banners truly functional. Any application that allows advertisers to really own that space--be it a game, a survey or an actual e-commerce sale--should be implemented as soon as possible.
Banner creative: Not a whole lot seemed to change in 1999 in terms of actual creative. IBM Corp. showed us that simple is still beautiful with its bright yellow Lotus Notes banners. Jenny Craig Inc. demonstrated that banners can be just as tasteless as any other medium. SonicNet's guitar and Riffage.com's Mad Libs gave us hope for elegantly used new technologies into 2000.
Pop-up ads: More began appearing this year and look to increase in 2000. Windows that open while a user moves through a site can be irritating. However, Women.com Network tapped Unicast Communications' Superstitial technology to promote internal features. That has provided a dynamic means of highlighting content while giving marketers yet another way to brand the areas they are sponsoring.
Sponsorships: The year has seen quite the increase in sponsorships of individual sections of a site. While it's not a new model, it is a growing one in its implications for the Web. Online-only zine Salon, for example, has partnered with several blue-chip automotive advertisers. Sponsorships, which mainstream advertisers are more used to, can be effective brand builders. We'd like to see more offline companies follow this path into the wonderful world of online advertising.
And as long as we're talking about blue-chip offline advertisers, we might as well close out the year by mentioning that Saturn Corp., with its LS product launch, yet again blew it on the Web while demonstrating its continued mastery of other media. We'd say "maybe next year," but we started saying that in '95.
Copyright December 1999, Crain Communications Inc.