There was a bit of a hoo-ha last week, when Google announced that 56.1% of all paid-for display ads never actually appeared on anyone's screen.

"Google admits that advertisers wasted their money on more than half of internet ads," was the view of a typical commentator

But are the attacks on banner ads justified?

Yes, it's true that click-through rates are low.
Perhaps you've seen a list that's been going around the interwebs - '5 Horrifying Stats About Online Display Advertising'.
It goes like this: the average banner ad has a 0.1% clickthrough rate, therefore…

  • You are more likely to be dealt a full house in a poker hand than click on a banner ad. (Source: Solve Media)
  • The average person is served over 1,700 banner ads per month. Do you remember any? (Source: comScore)
  •  You are more likely to give birth to twins than click a banner ad. (Source: Solve Media)
  • About 50% of clicks on mobile ads are accidental. (Source: GoldSpot Media)
  •  You are more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad. (Source: Solve Media)

    Is there anything good about display advertising?

    Yes. First off, ads appear next to the content you're already consuming and are interested in. That's handy. Also, retargeting can be used to hit people who have already visited a website; that means you're targeting a pretty hot prospect.

    Most of all, they work. Their results are highly measurable. So we know they work.

    Click through rates are indeed low on banner ads, and have been plummeting for years. The very first ones, like the 1994 ad shown above, which was for AT&T and is thought to be the very first banner ad ever served, had click-through rates as high as 10%.

    The average is a hundredth of that now.

    But hey, we can’t click on TV ads or radio ads or outdoor ads either.

    And as for that stat about 56% of online ads not being viewed... surely it's the same with print.

    What percentage of the ads do you see, when you read a newspaper or magazine? Chances are that you don't flick through every page of the newspaper, therefore the ads on those pages never appeared on those screens that you commonly call your eyeballs.

    Same as with banner ads.