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Banner advertising
Contributor: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®

Nearly all web sites feature banner
advertising of one sort or another and most commercial sites now integrate banners into their design and ethos. This articles explores the issues surrounding them.

The purpose of banner advertising
The purpose of a web site banner or banner-window is to make the user click and travel to a new site. If effective, the user's intention is at best suspended, at worst, permanently distracted. Commercial pressures continue to push the boundaries of screen real estate with an increasing trend towards banners. As web sites base financial viability on an increasing dependency on banner revenue, they become locked into funding strategies that may be at odds with their very purpose.

A shaky business model
The financial arguments for featuring banner advertising remain attractive as a method of generating income to maintain the heavy costs associated with web site development and maintenance. However web sites that base their business model solely on generating revenue from banner advertising will be in for a rough ride, and many have already fallen by the way side as the Internet begins to settle down into a more mature commercial environment.

Distract at your peril
As we've argued, advertising may on occasion conflict with the main purpose of the company web site. What follows is an example of how distraction from the main event (in this case a film) can seriously undermine the underlying service:

ITV, a commercial television service based in the UK
, at one time ran their evening feature films in two parts. The first part began an hour before the 10.00pm news, and the final part ran from around 10.40pm after the completion of the news, a summary of local news, and five minutes of advertising. The resulting experience of seeing such a disjointed offering was to often preclude and/or frustrate any complete involvement in the film. For some, this was a satisfactory arrangement, for many who loved films however, it so ruined the experience of the narrative it was better not to see the film at all.

This may seem a long way away from a web site banner add, but the effects of banner advertising can be even more serious. Internet users may never return to a site if they are taken elsewhere and find that site particularly useful. The original site hosting the banner add is often perceived of as a blip on the road to what proved to be a useful outing. There goes your very purpose for having a web site in the first place: to connect people to you, your service and/or your products.

Conclusion
Web banners can become salutary lessons in the dangers of not considering the full implications of what might first appear a simple method of making money. If you want your site to last well into the future as a sustainable and growing business, don't fall into the trap of providing banners without purpose.

That doesn't mean that at times banner advertising may bring real benefits apart from revenue. There is a school of thought that suggests the association of large sites such as Amazon can bolster a web site's status. Whatever you decide ensure you've thought long and hard about the prospect of banner advertising
rather than accepting the idea from a financial manager as a simple way to create revenue.

     
       
 
Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

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