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BREAK THROUGH THE CLUTTER WITH AUDIO BANNERS
by: Ronni Rhodes
"A horse is a horse, of course, of course, his name is
Mister Ed!" Do any of you remember that silly jingle
from the television show?

That's not really important anyway. What IS important
is that Ed, the talking horse, was quite a phenomenon
back in the 60's. Ed talked, reasoned and displayed
traits unlike any of his animal brethren.

There is a lesson here, of course. Millions of people
watched Mr. Ed every week just because he WAS
different. And that leads us right smack-dab into a
discussion about your banner advertising campaigns.

Those poor maligned banners. Once the darlings of
Internet advertisers, they've really been getting
bad-rapped lately due to their failure to lure web
surfers into clicking-thru and creating sales. But is
it the fault of the banners or have they become so
ubiquitous that the surfer hardly notices them? Why
don't we make those banners so inviting and
entertaining that users won't be able to click fast
enough?

I think that content providers are too focused on
consumers as "sets of eyeballs." We need to look at
these people first as users and, secondly, as members
of our online audience. And audiences have come to
expect advertising wrapped in a very entertaining
package. An essential part of that package is
streaming audio.

Streaming audio has become a whole new industry for
the Web. As more and more people listen to music
online and web-based radio, advertisers are taking
notice. These listeners, fondly called "streamies,"
are devoted Internet users and active online
shoppers. They are a valuable audience as they're 70
percent more likely to have made an online purchase
than a non-streamie. Arbitron Internet Information
Services says that streamies are quite ready to accept
web advertising in exchange for free programming, and
they're more receptive and influential targets.

How can we begin to use these statistics to leverage
the effectiveness of banner ads?

Java based audio presentations can be fully integrated
into your banner advertising. Why Java based, you
ask? Most important is the fact that no plug-in or
complicated player installation is required on the
part of the viewer. (The "impulse to click" is not
thwarted by the user having to take additional
actions.) The size of Java files are relatively small
as well thereby minimizing the page load issue. And,
because Java is cross platform, you can be comfortable
knowing that the majority of visitors will be able to
enjoy the presentation. Java is versatile and works
well with almost any application.

What can be done with these banners? Audio can be
synchronized with your banner images and text to
deliver eye and ear pleasing messages. Slide shows
can be placed within the banner. Relevant product
information can be imparted quickly and effectively
before the visitor is ever asked to click through to
the website. Special offers and promotions can be
referenced to entice the shopper. No longer are
viewers merely spectators; they are active
participants.

Interactive audio banners provide the consumer with
the ability to listen to more detailed information and
even to initiate the buying function directly from the
banner itself. This really helps to capture that
"impulse" buyer right at the time he's most anxious to
buy. Because it's interactive, a web visitor can
directly respond to it.

The power of audio should not be underestimated.
People would still rather hear about something than
spend time reading or sorting out passing images.
Keep in mind that museums and other institutions have
offered tours for years that are accompanied by audio
scripts designed to educate the visitor yet allowing
the eye to roam freely and absorb the creative on an
individual basis.

Audio banners can also add a personal appeal to the
visitor. Use the banner to tell a story about the
product or service that invokes an emotional
response. Talk about the product's benefits to the
consumer and how the product will improve his
life/work/relationships. Use the banner to whet
people's appetites for additional information. Never
lose sight of the fact that people make buying
decisions based on emotional reasons and design your
banner presentation accordingly.

It is far too early for any of us to dismiss the
banner ad as an idea whose time has past. We have to
step back, take an objective view, and start thinking
about how we can make them more than just billboards.

As the Internet leaves its infancy and enters the
"toddler" stage, we need to remind ourselves that
we're still dealing with a new medium. And that this
new medium is still largely unexplored.

About the Author

Ronni Rhodes is the owner of WBC Imaging, an Internet
company that specializes in web site enhancement
utilizing streaming media technology. With her
husband, Don, a broadcast engineer, they work with
companies to incorporate streaming as part of
successful and meaningful sales and marketing
programs.
Please direct all questions and comments to:
Ronni@wbcimaging.com
520-742-5780
http://www.wbcimaging.com