Last night I was at a dinner with Dean Donaldson, digital experience strategist for rich media company Eyeblaster. The gathering was to discuss a new measurement technique Eyeblaster is championing that looks at "dwell time" and "dwell rate" as a better way than clicks or impressions to figure out the branding effectiveness of Internet ads. At one point, Dean said something quite interesting. He said the notion that banner ads don't work is mostly because of poor creative. This is a regular argument. He went on to pin much of the blame on designers. On the Web, he explained, designers for some reason were the creatives. Rather than craft the kind of emotion-tugging ads we see in traditional media, they've focused on, yes, Flash microsites. That's meant, for the most part, terrible Internet advertising. When I asked for the best Web ad he's seen recently, other than the Apple banners, Dean pointed to the full-page placement for Chanel No. 5 on MSN recently. It expands to cover the page. On the Internet, ruled by designer sensibilities and a cult of usability, this is ugly intrusion. To Dean, and most importantly to Chanel, it's a good ad.
To some extent, Dean might have a point. He's echoing the argument IAB chief Randy Rothenberg has made: the Web needs to embrace the type of creativity that produced VW's "Think Small" campaign. Maybe. Another guest, Wired's Frank Rose, brought up the idea of telling stories and noted that online the challenge is to get other people to tell your story. This rang true to me. Creativity on the Web has a long way to go, but it's probably a mistake to believe it'll imitate the lush Chanel ad in Vogue. The ability to build applications and utility and enable consumers to advance a brand message.