Did I invent the banner ad?

I just read a great column by Dale Dougherty about the early days of Web advertising that reminded me of my own dubious contrbution. I was one of the “inventors” of the banner ad.
You may have heard that Wired magazine’s web site HotWired invented the banner. While HotWired was still a secet, we were developing a site of our own at the San Jose Mercury News and looking for a way to sell advertising on the site.
I created the ad format for Mercury Center, based on two models: The banner ads on Times Mirror Videotex’s Gateway service (where I had worked) provided the form factor and O’Reilly’s Global Network Navigator provided the conceptual model of a linked graphic on the page. Once we had come up with a price, I called my friend Dick Peck at O’Reilly to get an idea if our planned price was in the ballpark. Because we didn’t know how many ads we were going to be able to deliver, and because we were still a lilttle stuck in the print/tv model, we sold ads by the month, but designed the price to work out to a cost of $35 per thousand deliveries. This turned out to be pretty close to the pricing that ultimately prevailed.
We have the opportunity to unveil this model at a New Media get-together sponsored by an ad agency in New York in the summer of 1994. HotWired was there and they were contemptuous of the cost per thousand model of pricing, prefering to sell section sponsorships for a (high) fixed price.
Who invented the banner ad? Like a lot of things it had a lot of parents. It goes back to unlikely keyword banners in teletext, Times Mirror and Knight-Ridder videotex, and later Prodigy (pre-internet) videotex. The linked banner that we all know today owes its origins to these early models combined with O’Reilly’s linked ads which appeared on HotWired and Mercury Center in late 1994. I’m not certain if these appeared on The Gate or Nando which were also lauched that year.
But I do know that it wasn’t HotWired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *