Like zombies, they mindlessly wander the Internet. No force on Earth seems to be able to stop them. Banners are the virtual living dead of the online ad industry. It started with industry insiders proclaiming their demise. Then marketing people across the business world began to confirm the rumors. Now even the mainstream media have announced the death of the banner. The question is, if they are dead, why do they continue to haunt our browser windows whenever we visit a commercial website?

No one likes banners. Users ignore them, advertisers sob over the poor results generated by their campaigns, and creative designers bemoan the limited potential of their restrictive space. So why do they persist?

Sadly, the reason that banners remain a standard item on the menu of online advertising options is that they are familiar. Banners are like a bad relationship. You cannot stand them and they drive you absolutely crazy, but you know every little thing about them and you are so comfortable with them that you just can never say “enough is enough” and send them packing. Just like a bad relationship, banners will continue to be part of our lives until something else comes along that is attractive enough to turn our heads and make us (advertisers, agencies, and publishers) dump them and move on to something better.

Sure, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has developed a set of various standard online display ad shapes and sizes, but the fact is that they are fundamentally no different than a banner. Pop-up and pop-under advertisements seem to be everywhere now, but the problem is that users detest them, and for every one lead an advertiser generates with these ads they anger many other users who may then be forever lost to them. Pop-up / pop-under ads may even turn users against the sites that are running them. Obviously, none of these options are appealing enough to finally drive banners out of our lives forever.

Fortunately, there are other options that are starting to shine. More and more, we see engaging streaming and out-of-banner advertisements. These variations on the rich media theme represent the future of the industry. It is these types of technology-driven solutions that will help online advertising grow beyond its current adolescence, maturing it into a solid mainstream outlet. These formats have proven time and again to have a much greater impact than the other options, vastly outperforming banners and other standard online display ad formats in the areas brand awareness and recall, and even in generating direct leads and conversions.

Perhaps at this point, the main obstacle to widespread adoption of these more impactful ad formats is the practical considerations imposed by bandwidth limitations. While broadband has become common in the workplace, the majority of home users are still relying on turtlesque dial-up services. Without broadband access, these bandwidth-intensive advertisements are simply not an option for reaching many important at-home audiences. Broadband adoption is the limiting factor for these advertisements, rather than the underlying technologies.

The good news is that home broadband use has been steadily increasing for several years, and it has begun to gain significant momentum. Cable modems have taken the lead over DSL / ADSL, but all forms of at-home broadband service have seen escalating growth. Broadband is becoming available in even the smallest markets and the pricing has become more competitive, thus fueling its growth. As broadband continues to proliferate, these more advanced online advertisements will become ever more common.

The fundamental truth underlying all of this is that the Internet is still a relatively new medium. While the Internet has increased its reach and become a major player faster than any other form of media ever has, it is still young and experiencing periodic growing pains. Rest assured, time will heal all wounds and the Internet, including online advertising, will continue to evolve and prosper despite current economic concerns and practical limitations.