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What is a Banner Ad?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 16, 2024
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A banner ad is a rectangular image featured on a website which acts as a portal to the advertiser’s site once clicked on. Whereas original banner ads featured little more than images and text, many of today’s ones are interactive, featuring flash animation, video, and audio to attract the audience’s attention. These ads are a main component of cooperative online advertising and "pay-per-click" advertising, which is unique to the Internet.

A banner ad might use text or sound to beckon the audience to click on or "mouse-over" it in order to effect some change in the ad’s animation. For example, some ads challenge the viewer to click on a moving target or answer a trivia question, thereby engaging the viewer to participate in a game within the ad itself. Moving banner ads, which slide across the screen to attract the viewer’s attention and obstruct his or her view of the web browser, often monopolize bandwidth and are sometimes purposely difficult for the viewer to close. These types of ads are typically seen as an annoying, if not unethical form of web advertising.

Along with direct mail, pop-up ads, and plain text hyperlinks, the banner ad is one of the main models of advertising deployed by websites that wish to advertise their products or services online. Websites that want to use these ads have the option of participating in a link exchange with other websites that generate the type of traffic they want to receive on their own site. For example, a web design company and a tech writer may agree to host a banner ad for one another on their respective sites. Instances where two competing websites participate in an ad exchange, such as a web designer hosting an ad for another web designer, are examples of cooperative advertising.

Pay-per-click advertising is a popular pricing model for banner ads. With pay-per-click advertising, the website hosting the ad doesn’t charge the ad’s owner for the number of people who see the ad, also known as impressions, but rather for the number of times viewers click on the banner ad, known as click-throughs. That way, the owner of the banner only pays for traffic to his or her website, and whatever traffic is lost to the host site is made up for by payment from the owner of the ad.

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Discussion Comments
By anon306643 — On Nov 30, 2012

I have the same problem as lonelygod. Any thoughts?

By kylee07drg — On Jul 15, 2011

The spa where I work recently advertised with a web banner ad on the local television station’s website. The ad had relaxing flute music playing in the background, and images changed out every few seconds. The first image showed someone getting a massage; the second featured a lady with an avocado face mask, and the third showed a woman receiving a manicure.

I have had several clients tell me that the ad appealed to them and led them to make an appointment with me. People tend to be stressed while reading the news, and visitors to this television site came there to do just that. They told me that the thought of being pampered in a relaxing environment sounded as good to them as a vacation, but they could much more easily afford to come to the spa than plan an extended getaway.

By wavy58 — On Jul 14, 2011

I did some banner advertising for my pet portrait business on a local veterinarian’s website. The clinic mostly caters to richer clients, because it is a place people can leave their dogs while they go on vacation and have them receive various levels of treatment.

Different packages feature things like toys, different amounts of playtime, and various levels of grooming. Of course, the more posh the package, the higher the price. So, I figured anyone who is considering this place could afford to spend money on a pet portrait.

I got quite a few jobs from my ad. A lot of my clients are repeat customers. The ad paid for itself in a short time, and now I run it periodically to keep costs down. Since I’ve gotten my name out there among the locals, I figure I don’t have to advertise quite as much as I did at the beginning.

By orangey03 — On Jul 14, 2011

I must say that I find banner ads helpful during the Christmas season. When I visit a site to search for a gift, the ads at the top of the pages often give me additional ideas similar to the items I happened to be searching for.

Once I started out looking for a gift basket of teabags for a friend, but the banner ad on the site showed a basket of different exotic coffees, and I bought this instead. It made more sense for a wintertime gift.

Also, while looking for a blender for my sister, I found a book of smoothie recipes in a banner ad. I bought them both for her, plus another copy of the book for me. So, I think banner ads can be quite effective.

By seag47 — On Jul 13, 2011

At the newspaper where I work, we offer three different sizes of ads to be featured on our website. One is a small square, one is a vertical rectangle, and the largest is the banner ad.

We don't do anything flashy or incorporate audio into the ads, but that is largely because no one at our company knows how. We just design the basic RGB jpegs with text, a logo, and a photo if the customer wants it.

We have quite a few people who subscribe to the E-edition of the newspaper. They have to visit the site where the online banner ads are displayed to log in and view the paper each day, so these ads receive a lot of views.

By MrSmirnov — On Jul 13, 2011

I personally think that well placed banner ads can really help a business to generate traffic to their website. I think the problem most people have with banner ads is how invasive they are and how irrelevant.

As a small business owner myself I think it is important to choose your banner locations carefully and to make sure you produce something that is eye-catching and functional without interrupting a person's web surfing. I know nothing bothers me more than banner ads that take over a whole page or are too bright and flashy. Garish ads don’t attract the right kind of attention in my opinion.

By lonelygod — On Jul 12, 2011

@strawCake - I completely agree with you. Nothing is more annoying than visiting a website and finding yourself inundated with banner ads. I also avoid sites that have too many banner ads and make it a point to ignore them when possible.

One of the weirdest things I find though is how much your Internet history reflects in the banner ads you see. For myself, if I find myself searching for some DVDs, I can be guaranteed that I will be shown numerous ads featuring similar products no matter where I visit. I am really starting to wonder if I have some sort of adware or something hiding in my computer. Does anyone else have a problem with being so specifically targeted?

By starrynight — On Jul 11, 2011

@strawcake - Those ads are very annoying. I can't help but wonder if they even work? I feel like they're so irritating that even if one popped up that I was interested in I wouldn't click on it out of principle!

Despite my dislike of the pop up ads, I don't have any problem with regular banner ads. As long as they are silent don't take over the whole website I don't mind them. Usually they'll be something related to the website that I may be interested in so sometimes they can even be sort of helpful.

By strawCake — On Jul 11, 2011

I find banner ads to be extremely annoying. In fact, if I go to a website and an ad pops up right over the page I usually discontinue visiting that website. I feel like the only way to bring advertising back to a more normal level is to stop supporting the websites where it's totally out of control.

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