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First Banner Ad
Andrew Anker (dates unavailable), Otto Timmons (b.1959), Craig Kanarick (b. 1967)
A clever little banner at the top of hotwired.com (then the online version of Wired magazine) on October 27, 1994, is generally regarded as the origin of this somewhat annoying species of web creature. It was a small black rectangle with rainbow-colored letters that read, “Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?” with an arrow pointing to a block of white letters that read “YOU WILL.” And people did. Almost half who saw it, in fact.
Sponsored by AT&T, it was part of a larger campaign about where the future was going and the role that Wired’s readers would play in making it a reality.
As the World Wide Web gained in popularity, Wired magazine, one of technology’s leading voices, simply had to have a web presence. The challenge was funding it. Wired was funded by a combination of revenue sources—newsstand sales, advertising, and subscriptions. Wired couldn’t grow newsstand sales from the web content. This was a concern, because the real promise of the web was attracting a new class of readers.
Publishers believed that there was a lot of money to be made, if only they could figure out the business model. Andrew Anker, Wired’s chief technology officer at the time, decided the path to revenue should be through advertising. But what did that look like? In the early days of digital marketing, finding a way to become part of the online scene was half the battle.
The “YOU WILL” banner was designed by Craig Kanarick and Otto Timmons, who went on to found the Razorfish® advertising agency. Those who clicked on the banner were transported to a plain website with three links: the first took users to a map with links to virtual art galleries around the world, the second to a listing of AT&T websites, and the third to a survey about the ad itself. The only real “targeting” behind the ad was making a conscious decision to place it in the arts section of HotWired’s page. With the explosion of user-generated content in the decades that followed and the development of predictive analytics, advertising would never be this wholesome or straightforward again.
SEE ALSO First Mass-Market Web Browser (1992), E-Commerce (1995)
Banner ads, which generally appear on the top or sides of web pages, direct those who click on them to an advertiser’s website or special “landing” pages.