Have you ever imagined how the first ever banner ad would have looked?

This is how it looked like:




This was a banner ad ran for AT&T in 1994 in Wired Magazine’s online equivalent (‘HotWired’). Remarkably, it got an enormous 44% clickthrough rate.

Don’t you think the ad was quite strange although it gave birth to a multi billion industry?

Let me tell you some more facts about this banner ad.

It was designed by a man called Joe McCambley, who at present works for a company he founded called The WonderFactory.

Then on, banner ads are more commonly called ‘display ads’ and now the display advertising market has become a multi billion industry.

Let’s go through some facts and figures related to it:

• In the USA alone, $15 billion was spent last year on display ads. (Internet Retailer)
• 64% of businesses increased their display ad spend this year. (Econsultancy)
• The average clickthrough rate on display ads is roughly 1 in 1,000. (Smart Insights)
• The particular format of the first ever banner ad performs even worse than that, roughly 1 in 2,500 (0.04%)
• The average display ad has a click-through rate of just 0.11% at present

I know you must be feeling inquisitive to know how this ad would perform if you run the same today.

So, we went ahead and tested the ad to see how it would perform today.

However, why not have a sneak peek to the features of this ad before we go ahead with results




1. The ad, with no place to tell which brand it is advertising, is totally generic.
2. Although, it would be considered pretty ugly by most of us according to today’s standards, but then the ad is very contrasty and would stand out on any ground.
3. If you keep the ugly factor aside, the ad seems quite creative. Even it’s not at all irritating for eyes and doesn’t have any animation.
4. There’s an interesting thing that people usually don’t notice initially: There is some subliminal text –and if you look carefully behind the colored arrow, you will find that it repeats ‘YOU WILL. YOU WILL.’ over and over in very dark grey text.

The Results

We ran the ad for almost a week, on Google’s display Network. However, in order to keep things fair, we didn’t target the ad in any specific way that may influence its success. In its place, we simply pulled out some arbitrary keywords and went with the standard settings.

Even, we decided not to put a landing page together for the ad either. Instead, we pointed it back to the homepage of our own sites and we asked Google to target it against the keywords ‘ecommerce consultant‘.
Following is a graph telling you about the ‘clicks’ & ‘clickthrough rate’ results over 7 days:


As the graph indicates, the ad started off slow and built up a little bit. The clickthrough rate’stayed consistently over 3%.

As far as the full overall results over the seven days is concerned, you can have a look at the table below:


Results Summary:

When £14.54 (roughly $20) was spent:-

• The ad was viewed 10,140 times.
• It was clicked 75 times.
• It had a 0.74% clickthrough rate.

It is clear from the results that the ad performed 18.5x as well as the average 0.04% click-through rate for this format. The results that we got almost 20 years after the ad was designed must be attributed to the designer Joe McCambley, for it performed 1,750% better than the average for its format.

Incredible! Isn’t it?

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