Watch this space

About a decade ago, I was cutting my chops at DDB. Theo and I had been recruited to start the San Francisco office of their Tribal DDB office. One day, agency patriarch Keith Reinhard (he of "two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese..." fame) came by and addressed the teams at both "mainline" DDB and us geeks over at Tribal about the coming future of digital.

That day, Mr. Reinhard challenged us to not to be shackled by the limitations of a 468 x 60 banner, but to use those precious pixels as a canvas to create famous work.

I still think about that challenge often. I've brought it with me to Traction and we strive to answer it every time we work on a campaign — whether we're creating a banner ad or anything else. We don't always hit the mark, but it's our ambition.

On that note, I really like the watch this space ad campaign that Google has put out for display ads. Despite the irony of an ad for ads, this effort challenges us to be smarter in this digital space. More relevant. To innovate. Be simpler.

I think it's an inspiring message about the future of digital. Display ads are not just a fishing rod for e-commerce. As a matter of fact, they suck at that.

When we look at the results of our campaigns (and we always look at the results of our campaigns), we frequently see indirect or "view-through" traffic as higher than direct traffic. In other words, more people are seeing and ad, making a mental note and checking out the brand site later than are actually clicking on the ad. We see online ads as effective tools to drive awareness and even purchase intent.

The industry average banner ad click-through rate hovers around a dismal 0.6%. Most brands see that as a reason to invest less in online creative. To slap "25% off" in the brand font on a slab of brand color and optimize their campaigns downward toward "conversions" for as low a cost as possible.

Sure, we need to measure. Sure, we need to optimize. But we're advertisers. We cannot forget persuasion. We cannot forget inspiration. We can't forget innovation. It takes Google, the king of search, to remind us of this.

The irony.

I recommend you watch the videos. How can you be smarter?

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