Just a day after Lincoln Millstein predicted at the Media Summit panel that banner ads would be disappearing, his announcement is already coming true. In today's NY Times, Disney Interactive announced that they are laying off a quarter of their staff. And buried further down in the article, this little gem: "Mr. Pitaro (James A. Pitaro, the president of the unit, Disney Interactive) said that Disney Online, a collection of websites anchored by Disney.com, would largely abandon display advertising in favor of advertising sponsorships and a greater focus on promoting Disney-branded merchandise." A very timely announcement. Banner ads don't work; I know as very few people ever click on my display ads on this blog site.
That a major company like Disney is recognizing that banner ads have lost their impact and their value also demonstrates what Mr. Millstein believed, the need to get back to more creative thinking by content makers and advertisers. Banner ads have been a stop gap approach to monetizing web content but not an effective one. What advertising sponsorship means for Disney will have to be watched. Will it be clearly showcased as advertiser messages or more of a native ad approach, resembling content but pushing an ad over editorial?
The end of banner ads may not happen as quickly as Mr. Millstein predicts, but the fact that Disney is already agreeing should mean that others will follow this same course. And Disney, taking another approach, stresses too the promotion of e-commerce on their site. An opportunity that may not have been fully pursued. But for every young prince or princess out there, an easy way to get Disney merchandise without going to their theme park.