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Before banner ads and online advertising for that matter, the Internet's usage was limited to being a hub for efficient communication and information databases. Next, the Internet evolved into a marketplace with the development of This led to the realization and potential that business owners now had by selling to their consumers on the world wide web.

October 27, 1994

The evolution of online advertising can be accredited to the novelty of the banner ad in 1994.
Although it is said that HotWired released several banner ads on that day, AT&T’s “You Will” campaign gets the claim to fame. Whether it is was the most successful or first to reach Hotwired’s office is unknown. This leaderboard ad was sold as a sponsorship and costed AT&T (& other advertisers) $30,000 to run for 12 weeks… but the results are the best part.. The ad generated a CTR of 44%! To put this in perspective, the industry average CTR for 2016 was .12% nationally. Most of the success can be attributed to a concept that remains true for human nature ---

Psychologically speaking, when we see something new and unfamiliar, we tend to believe there's the possibility of a reward waiting for us right around the corner.

At this time, it is estimated that there were only 30 million users accessing the Internet globally, what is now roughly 3.7 billion users. ( Additionally, there was not much to do on the web at the time these ads were released.

A few things to point out about the “You Will” campaign...


The ad placement for this campaign is now known as a “leaderboard” ad. The ad’s dimensions was around 640x480 but now would be required to be 728 x 90. This is because the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) was not founded until 1996 which is an organization that develops industry standards such as accepted ad sizes and formats.


(They definitely did not land this one..)

If you would have clicked the ad, it would have taken you to a landing page that is much different than recommended landing pages today. This is because AT&T wanted to take a different approach to advertising and not “sell” to the user but instead reward them for clicking on something sponsored by AT&T. First, AT&T’s logo did not appear anywhere on the ad. Second, clicking the ad brought the user to a map with clickable links to explore museums and galleries that currently had online websites. The second hyperlink provided a directory of AT&T websites which was not even listed on AT&T’s own website. The last link was a survey for the user to give feedback on the ad.


The first thing I want to point out about the landing page is that its message was undefined. What was the benefit to AT&T as a business for putting this ad out there without the intent to sell?

The key ingredient was the two years leading up to the banner ad, AT&T invested $50 million of their marketing efforts on the “You Will” concept in their tv, radio and print ads. Without this integrated marketing approach, the banner ad may have not seen as great of success that it did.


Another key point to make is that the ad and landing page had little to no correlation whatsoever. How does the “You Will” message relate to art galleries or an AT&T directory?


What did AT&T’s want its users to do besides “click” the ad? Today it is recommended, from an ROI perspective, to have a lead form on a landing page to gather data on the user or bring them to your website to learn more information or potentially bring them to the point where they can make a purchase.


This $30,000 ad buy in 1994 would be equivalent to $49,677 today according to inflation rates.


A big topic of conversation still today -- what kind of results do my marketing programs deliver?

Since this was a new advertising tactic, there was no past performance to use as a benchmark and therefore they were sold without any ‘result’ guarantees. Instead, the pitch was that the advertiser would ‘own presence’ online. Imagine not even being given estimates of what returns you can receive with the dollars you spend. This may have led to the creation of the many metrics we as advertisers have the ability to report on today.


Display banner ads led to the first time a marketer could know how many people saw his ad and even how they interacted with it. Without them, we would be in a much different world for they laid the foundation for the digital advertising market today.

Don’t be deterred from using this legacy tool as part of your advertising efforts because despite what many people think, revenue from the global banner ad market is expected to be $49,165 million in 2017.  Banner ads have come a long way since its introduction in 1994 and have the ability to target your customers individually based on numerous factors such as geographies, demographics, and psychographics. Designing and using display ads effectively can provide great value to your business.

Read up on how to design effective banner ads in today’s market and the next time you consider what the best digital strategy for your business is, YOU WILL get some expert advice from JMC Brands…doesn’t quite work like it did in 1994? It was worth a shot. 😉