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Looking back over the years, a few Web sites and banners stand out as groundbreaking efforts. For example, HotWired hit the Net with a huge commercial splash, bringing with it a series of banners.

Here are a few of our favorites from the marketing, advertising and media worlds over the past six years. While some of these were virtually earth-shattering at the time, overall they make the future look even brighter.

The Web, Circa 1994: HotWired was unlike anything else on the Web. It had a hippy-esque vision of the Internet as a force that could change publishing, communications and the world in general. The site featured bright colors, hip iconography and section headings that didn't mean a whole lot -- much like sister magazine, Wired. Oddly, with all its breakthrough content, it will be remembered most for being the first major site to sell out and post what would become known as banner ads.

First banner: Speaking of Hot-Wired's banners, in 1994 HotWired featured this graphic on its site, and banner ads hit the mainstream. This ad by interactive shop Modem Media (see related story on Page 106) didn't animate, didn't let on that it was an ad and probably just confused people at first. But they'd learn, and the 468x60 would become a standard in a young industry.

msnbc '97 wreck: Under a photo of the mangled wreckage of Princess Diana's Mercedes came a banner ad for Toyota that read: "Feeling trapped inside your old car? Escape here." The juxtaposition of ad and copy have often been a source of humor in our industry, but when you add automatic banner rotation into the media mix, you can come up with some real gems.

pathfinder: Pathfinder. Oh, the irony. Never has a site made it so easy to get lost as this one. A big jumble of magazine logos. Like at your local newsstand. You might eventually learn where your favorite title was in the melee, but in the meantime, forget about it. Time Inc. brought all its content together under one roof in 1994, but without any rational reason (i.e., content tie-ins) as to why it was doing so.

pong banner: The Pong banner was to rich media what Peter Gabriel and Michael Jackson were to the music video. It was ahead of its time (1996) and a throwback all at once. It gave credibility to a new medium as a creative space, and set a standard that few even try to match. Most of all, it was fun. Everyone talked about it. And people downloaded Shockwave just to play the ad. Arguably, this was the first "cool" banner. You can still check it out on the Hewlett-Packard site at: hp.com/Ebusiness/march/tools.html.

interactive `homicide': It wasn't quite interactive TV, but NBC's "Homicide" Web site in 1997 took the innovative approach of developing a mirror cast of actors and similar story lines on the Web. Taking a series with a cultish following, NBC tried to port that audience over to NBC.com in a trial balloon of Web-based, series-linked content -- just in time for the February 1997 sweeps..

the spot: Slightly ahead of its time (1995), thespot.com aimed to create a Web soap opera. Soap fans could log on and track the capers of five young hipsters in daily episodes. Nowadays, voyeurism is a big sell, with Web cam sites popping up everywhere. But this anchor of the ill-fated American Cybercast Network crashed and burned in early 1997, ending its two-year run and denting the market for online soaps.

adage.com: As long as we're digging up the past, here's a look at our first site. Granted, in 1995 it didn't seem so bad, and it quickly established itself as the destination on the Web for anyone interested in the business of marketing. Yeah. Yada yada yada. We can say what we want, but it still featured a big bull's-eye, which took about eight years (in Internet time) to load.

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