A web banner, also referred to as a banner ad, is a rectangular advertisement displayed on a webpage. Although banners are commonly considered a nuisance, similar to television commercials, the revenue from hosting web banners provides the funding for most non-sales websites. Web banners are nearly as old as the public Internet.
The banner ad typically displays a product or service, incites the Internet user to purchase it, and, if clicked, loads the appropriate sales website. The party owning the website displaying the banner typically is paid by the advertising party, according to the number of unique Internet users who click on the web banner. This is known as "pay per click." Even if a user does not click on the advertising link, he or she becomes exposed to its marketing. It is not uncommon for the same company to provide multiple ads on the same webpage.
The word "banner" refers to the characteristic, elongated shape of the advertisement link. Vertically oriented banners are referred to as "skyscrapers," and small, horizontally oriented banners are called "buttons." Nearly 20 specifically shaped sizes are prescribed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
A web banner might be static or animated, and it might even be interactive. It might adapt the Internet user's cursor into an image related to the content of the advertisement whenever the cursor is hovered or clicked over the banner. This serves to simulate an entertaining animated reaction or even a simplistic point-and-click game while quickly redirecting the user away to the main sales website. Some web banners might utilize an audio feature. This can confuse users, especially if the banner is displayed near the bottom of the webpage, beyond the user's immediate view.
A web banner is different from a pop-up ad, which opens in a separate window or at least can be closed. Unlike a pop-up ad, a web banner does not cover the main content of the hosting website but usually lines the edges of the webpage and is permanently displayed. Like pop-up ads, however, web banners slow the loading time for webpages, especially when intricate and amassed.