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Happy Birthday, Digital Advertising!

The Banner Campaign that Started a $24 billion Business, and Got a 78% Click-through Rate

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Oct. 27 marks the 15th anniversary of the industry's first banner display ads, which appeared on Hotwired.com. To the many of you reading this who weren't in the business back then, that's not a typo; I'm not referring to www.HotWire.com, the travel site, but HotWired -- the first commercial digital magazine on the web and the offshoot of Wired magazine.

Hotwired.com's home page as it appeared in 1994.
Hotwired.com's home page as it appeared in 1994.
For us, it started with a speech. It was May 1994, and Ed Artzt, the chairman of P&G; at the time, made his landmark speech at the 4A's meeting in White Sulphur Springs, WV calling for marketers and their agencies to dive headlong into the "new media" revolution or be left behind.

My boss and mentor Bob Schmetterer, president of Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer (MVBMS), a unit of Euro RSCG, was in that audience and he was totally energized by Artzt's challenge. It's important to note that our largest account at the time was MCI, which employed Vinton Cerf -- the "Father of the Internet" -- as VP-data services.

At the time I was an MCI account guy and Bob assigned me to this new media and created a deadline in order to jumpstart the agency's involvement in "cyberspace." Our challenge seemed simple: develop something called a "graphical ad unit" for HotWired. This initial assignment was under the guise of "let's explore this new medium and see what happens."

HotWired was the first commercial web magazine to attract blue chip corporate sponsorships dollars on the web. The site launched shortly before Netscape's browser, and the advent of such other new media such as Pathfinder.com (Time Inc.'s commercial web content offering) and Cnet.com.

Once the media commitment to HotWired was made, we needed to select clients we believed would share our excitement in entering this new space. We went through the client list and quickly reasoned that MCI (telecom), Volvo (automotive) and ClubMed (travel/hospitality) would be as good a core of candidates for this exploration as any.

Four of our then-clients placed ad banners as part of that first campaign, MCI, Volvo, Club Med and 1-800-Collect. (The other two advertisers were AT&T; and Zima.) Keep in mind, this was 1994; the first graphical web browser, Mosaic, was less than a year old (soon to be replaced by Netscape Explorer), and Web access? Purely dial-up, 24.4kps if you were lucky, meaning these ads took a while to load. The online U.S. population? Two million, if that.

These "original six" were the first brands to take a leap of faith and place advertising in the unchartered "cyberspace" territory. But several didn't know they were taking it until after the fact. Corporate America was still largely unfamiliar with the graphical web, so we didn't even try to sell the concept. We decided to commit agency media and development dollars to place client banner ads on HotWired without clients' prior consent or knowledge. The way he saw it was if they liked it, they would be happy to pay us and if not, that was OK too; but at least the agency would get a running start at exploring this new exciting medium that was on course to change all of our (professional) lives.

AT&T banner ad
AT&T; banner ad
We were given the ad specs by HotWired and it was only then that we realized banners ads were clicked on and could drive consumers to a client designation on the web. Oops! This accidental lesson sparked us to develop websites for these initial ad banner placements. Some of our clients weren't too sure they even wanted to "interact" with this new online population. Can you imagine?!

Its launch in 1994 was not without debate internally as to whether the ad units offered to the advertiser community should be simple text links or graphical ad banner units. Graphical ad display banners won out and the rest is history. And take a look at the hilarious come-on AT&T; used to generate a click-through: "Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE? You will!"

The reaction ran from enthusiastic to somewhat leery. MCI, as one would expect, was truly supportive of our proactive initiative. Their corporate culture encouraged exploration. Volvo, on the other hand, understood the value of our experimenting with the new medium, but did not want to push/urge any interaction with the consumer. They didn't know what to expect, did not know how to handle responses and was concerned legal implications were involved. As a result, you see the first Volvo ad banner was nothing more than the Volvo logo and photo of an auto. No call to action or direction to click was to be incorporated into the Volvo banner. In fact, if someone clicked on that banner in October of 1994, it would take them to a simple questionnaire that could be emailed by the consumer on what kind of Volvo they might be interested in.

Volvo banner ad
Volvo banner ad
Looking back at the birth of this industry and the first simple graphical banners, I am still amazed at how much has been achieved in the first 15 years. That said, I anxiously await the further advancements coming our way in terms of new ad technologies, ad forms and ad measurement capabilities (e.g. attribution modeling). The issues surrounding display banners and online brand measurement are many and have been well chronicled (see the recent special eMarketer report entitled The Online Brand Measurement: Connecting Dots for example).

Research suggests we have a long road ahead in terms of measurement -- and I don't disagree; however, I'm not convinced we're that far off. I don't believe there will ever be a "silver bullet" to solve all of our problems, as our industry is constantly evolving, becoming more complex and proving to be a moving target. But all that said, from what we have learned through the use of fundamental building blocks of acquired knowledge, industry and case studies, the use of traditional media metrics, the use of existing best measurement practices for digital and a quest to continually "test and learn," we will ultimately be successful.

Has any one item in our industry been encased with so much debate -- at times even disdain -- as to its true value, role and contribution to marketing communications from its inception in 1994 to this day? Yet the display banner is the impetus to the creation of the online advertising category that will reach beyond $24 billion in 2009, according to eMarketer. Perhaps more important, no other development since has advanced advertising measurement, effectiveness and accountability than the display banner.

So on Oct. 27, I hope you will join me in toasting the birthday of the banner display ad -- whether you are a "cup is half-empty" or "cup is half-full" type of person. Some days I love the business and others day... well, not so much... but I have to admit: it's been an unbelievable 15 years.

I leave you with a challenge... Can you guess the two-word copy from one of the original banner ads that generated 78% click-through rate? I look forward to your answers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frank D'Angelo is founder and partner of CL&S;, New York.
45 Comments
Subscribe to comments on: Happy Birthday, Digital Advertising!
  By mitalip | SUNNYVALE, CA October 26, 2009 04:38:09 pm:
answer: click here
  By Dteicher | Fair Lawn, NJ October 26, 2009 04:54:37 pm:
Click Here (The 2 Words)
  By Michel | São Paulo October 26, 2009 07:48:12 pm:
Frank, by reading your article I supposed we used to be colleagues back in those days at MVBMS. I was part of Jay Fayloga's interactive team, creating banner ads and websites for the clients back then. I was there during my ITP years, 1995 and 1996. :)

Jeez it makes me feel like Mad Digital Men!

I hope you catch this comment.

Best, Michel Lent Schwartzman
  By lenellis | NEW YORK, NY October 27, 2009 09:13:37 am:
Thanks for the thoughtful retrospective. The spirit of exploration at MVBMS way back when led to such executions as a scratch-off card and a slot machine inside a banner. For all of toeday's emphasis on measurement, creative interactivity remains essential to triggering user behavior in the first instance and that still seems in short supply.
  By seamuswalsh | essex junction, VT October 27, 2009 10:03:30 am:
was it "hello world"
  By jhillhq | cincinnati, OH October 27, 2009 10:38:28 am:
I made a nice graphic in honor of this special occasion:

http://www.hyperquake.com/blog/happy-birthday-banner-ads/
  By VickieJazz | Wayne, NJ October 27, 2009 11:02:45 am:
WOW, has it been that long? I think digital advertising has come so far but still has a long way to go, especially with metrics continually evolving. I also think banner advertising will continue to get slicker, with interactivity and Web 2.0 components keeping it a viable marketing option. Happy birthday!

@Vickie_Smith
http://www.VickieSmith.com
  By mattwa | Coral Gables, FL October 27, 2009 11:07:26 am:
Was it "click here"?
  By GEORGE | New York, NY October 27, 2009 11:15:32 am:
Frank, great article. The spirit of MVBMS and drive for innovation started by Bob, you, Len, Larry, Steve, Michael and the others is still alive and well at Euro RSCG and Euro RSCG 4D. Volvo, one of the orignal pioneer 4 banner ads created by Euro RSCG is keeping that original spirit alive. We're still global digital AOR, have created many firsts with them since then and still driving innovation. Thanks to you and the team for taking the leap (Schmetterer's book Leap is a good read for those interested in driving innovation.)
  By STEVEN | SAN FRANCISCO, CA October 27, 2009 11:19:56 am:
I believe the two words were "Shop Naked"
  By j.silverstein | NEW YORK, NY October 27, 2009 11:29:03 am:
No fair Steven...you had inside info :) Happy Birthday
  By scottyschiller | NEW YORK, NY October 27, 2009 11:44:14 am:
Doug Weaver sold the first ad!!!
  By FRANK | NEW YORK, NY October 27, 2009 11:53:22 am:
Hey Georgio,
Thanks. You are correct Bob's passion,vision and creative thinking has been the fundamental principles that has served us well since 1994. It was a wonderful time with developments and learning occurring at break neck speed...

BTWL you forgot to mention someone......Darlene :)
  By kobips | Chicago, IL October 27, 2009 11:58:41 am:
Pretty cool. And I love that Euro RSCG is still the global digital AOR for Volvo and doing innovative work in that space!
  By markinnovation | Richmond, VA October 27, 2009 11:58:55 am:
"Shop Naked"
  By tcal2000 | New York, NY October 27, 2009 12:00:15 pm:
Frank - Not sure where you got your story from...check out http://adland.tv/content/banner-ads-tenth-birthday for the full story that was written before our memories faded! The AT&T; banner by Modem Media has always been acknowledged as first...let's try to give the credit to the real pioneers!
  By bgordon | Louisville, KY October 27, 2009 12:07:12 pm:
Speaking of History. In April 1995 The_AutoChannel.Com went on line. In November ad agency Eisaman, Johns and Laws and its president the late great Dick Westman saw the future of the Internet and bought the title sponsorship position of TheAutoChannel.com(we lost the underscore)for his client Pennzoil. The commitment was $1.2 million, for 24 months.

Over the sponsorship period The Auto Channel developed many firsts; the first banner rotation software(like the TV spots we were familiar with), the first live NASCAR driver to crew radio on the web, the first live webcast of an Indy 500; the first live video of a new car unveiling (the 1997 Jaguar XK8-Live from the Petersen Auto Museum in LA). The Auto Channel was the first web site with "Channel" in its name and URL, and the first web site to offer consumers a view of dealer invoice without charge.

You ad guys out there might want to read our Dick Westman obit; he was an ad guy with vision and the father of sponsored internet.
http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2004/10/26/263835.html
  By GEORGE | New York, NY October 27, 2009 12:22:47 pm:
tcal, yes, AT&T; by Modem was credited, but reality is MCI, by Euro RSCG was first to book the media, and Euro RSCG placed 4 of the first 6. Anyway, they all launched at the same time, so they were all first. It's time to celebrate. Maybe now we all get a birthday instead of just AT&T; : )
  By tcal2000 | New York, NY October 27, 2009 12:29:11 pm:
George - Euro maybe first to book, but not first to run - AT&T; by Modem was the first banner ad actually seen on the web...but there is enough $24 billion cake to go around!
  By GEORGE | New York, NY October 27, 2009 12:33:35 pm:
Thanks tcal. Happy Birthday.
  By Macman37 | New York, NY October 27, 2009 12:44:03 pm:
Hi Frank - I remember those days as well! Little did I know at that point that the Volvo digital assignment was going to turn into the great success that it became for years afterwards.

Interestingly, I work at Modem now, and there's definitely 'healthy debate' on who/what was truly the first banner ad.

Sean
  By rlast | Plano, TX October 27, 2009 01:55:34 pm:
We worked with Modem Media in the early days ... and ran banner ads 0n Proodigy in 1988
  By adamengst | Ithaca, NY October 27, 2009 01:57:28 pm:
For the record, we were doing advertising in TidBITS on the Internet several years before HotWired launched, though it was text-based and owed much to the PBS sponsorship model. We launched our program in July 1992, and as far as I've been able to discover, there were no earlier Internet-based advertising programs anywhere. Since every article we've published is available in our archive, you can read the original article announcing the program here (and yes, it is a little embarrassing to read stuff I wrote over 17 years ago):

http://db.tidbits.com/article/2995

TidBITS has covered the Apple and Macintosh world on the Internet continuously since April 1990, and we recently published our 1,000th weekly email issue, though our publishing model has of course expanded well beyond just email these days.

cheers... -Adam C. Engst, TidBITS publisher
  By adamboettiger | Portland, OR October 27, 2009 02:06:07 pm:
The two words were: "You will"

Adam Boettiger, Digital Strategist
http://www.adamboettiger.com/
adam at adamboettiger dot com
  By Max | Venice, CA October 27, 2009 02:15:01 pm:
Ah memories... I was at Saatchi + Saatchi in San Francisco creating ad banners in 1995. seemed the only consistency was that a banner could be no heavier than 10K. 468x60 hadn't even been settled on.
Some sites were 450x55, 460x60.
Not sure how 468x60 was the winner, but it was. And that sure made life easier. thanks for the article.
  By | MADBURY, NH October 27, 2009 02:16:44 pm:
Interactive Age, the first publication to launch in print and on the Web simultaneously, launched on September 26, 1994, with advertising on its site, including audio. Those were some times!
  By ottowt | Long Beach, CA October 27, 2009 05:03:04 pm:
Frank, great article! I worked on both the AT&T; and Zima banner ads. My memory is getting a little fuzzy, but, I seem to recall that Organic also had a couple of ads which went into rotation on October 27, along with the six ads you cite?... In any event, it wouldn't have happened without Brian Behlendorf and Matt Nelson, who pulled double duty as Hotwired.com's Webmaster and advertising account manager, respectively, while also co-founding Organic, Inc., which was one floor above Wired's office back in the day..

Cheers/Otto TImmons
  By rickboyce | SAN ANSELMO, CA October 27, 2009 06:52:51 pm:
Frank,

Thanks for the memories. Those were great times indeed. I was the founding ad director at HotWired from 1994 - 1999 and can add a few tidbits to this discussion.

•HotWired launched with 14 sponsors. In addition to the six already mentioned I recall seven other campaigns but am forgetting one.

•Here's a list of those I recall: IBM (from Ogilvy/NY), Metricom (client direct), Xircom (Chiat/SF), Internet Shopping Network (client direct), Sprint (JWT/SF), AT&T; (client direct and separate from the Modem AT&T; campaign which also went live 10/27/94), JBL speakers (client direct I believe).

•I think Sharon Katz placed IBM, Tara Lemme placed Xircom, Bill Rollinson placed ISN and Thom Campbell placed Sprint. And, of course, Steven Comfort placed the 4 MVBMS campaigns and GM O'Connell himself called me on the phone to order banners for Modem clients Zima and AT&T.;

•On the sales side, Doug Weaver, Mitchell Kreuch and Bill Peck did a lot of the heavy lifting and were key to HotWired selling out of all ad inventory at launch.

•The first contract was signed on 4/15/1994 by the AT&T; client direct. I can't recall his name now but I believe this was sold by Jane Metcalfe who co-founded WIRED with Louis Rossetto. Two AT&T; campaigns ran on HotWired at launch.

•HotWired's banners were 476x60 at launch but were modified to 468x60 in late 1996 when the IAB published banner standards.

Thanks again, Frank, for remembering that special day 15 years ago.

-Rick Boyce
  By FRANK | NEW YORK, NY October 27, 2009 08:27:59 pm:
Rick, thanks for commenting, and love the begind the scene details....it was a wonderful time and today is a good time to reflect how far we've come and what lies ahead of us. For me October 27th 1994 was like the starter's gun going off and we've all been running ever since constantly evolving, stretching the eenvelope with each new development.

Hope the Utah Hotel was fun tonight. Cheers
  By GEORGE | New York, NY October 27, 2009 09:37:49 pm:
Rick, great to have the update and Frank, thanks for the original aritcle. What is nice to see from this is the confirmation that AT&T; was one of the first, not the only first. To the sentiment of all, it's been a wonderful ride - and there are lots of us on the train. Some pre the start, others post, and then the guys that made it happen. To all, Happy Birthday
  By omnisphere | Oakland, CA October 27, 2009 11:47:31 pm:
Hi Rick. Didn't AT&T; run two ads, one for Bell Labs plus another? That might account for the 14th banner, though I'm not certain.

Thanks for the shout out Otto. As I recall, Caleb Donaldson, our copy editor extraordinaire was the one who pulled the all-nighter with me.

There are many others who deserve recognition from those early days of online advertising: Jonathan Steuer (online tsar -- the first visionary for HotWired), Andrew Anker (president), Barbara Kuhr (design director), Chip Bayer (editor in chief) and Howard Rheingold (first editor in chief), as well as Jonathan Nelson, co-founder of Organic with Brian and me, not to mention my brother and now CEO of Omnicom Digital.
  By dabitch | Malmö October 28, 2009 05:08:01 am:
Feels like it was only yesterday we celebrated the tenth anniversary!
http://adland.tv/content/banner-ads-tenth-birthday
  By kikoegel | Brooklyn, NY October 28, 2009 09:12:37 am:
By focusing on the unit -- but not what it contains and how it is measured, think we still have a long way to go. For lots of info on current spending, measurement, creative trends and the impact of ad networks and exchanges, this paper was just published yesterday: The State of Digital Display at the DPAC conference

www.primaryimpact.com/DPAC4
  By kikoegel | Brooklyn, NY October 28, 2009 09:12:38 am:
By focusing on the unit -- but not what it contains and how it is measured, think we still have a long way to go. For lots of info on current spending, measurement, creative trends and the impact of ad networks and exchanges, this paper was just published yesterday: The State of Digital Display at the DPAC conference

www.primaryimpact.com/DPAC4
  By gborden | Waukesha, WI October 28, 2009 10:53:21 am:
I'm going to go with "Click Here" as well.
  By shawnkeith | Marietta, GA October 28, 2009 12:44:24 pm:
Having worked at MCI starting in 1995, I now look back with fondness, with the open slate we had in the marketing teams at that point, and our participation in the interactive channel early on.
  By billpeck | Santa Cruz, CA October 28, 2009 01:32:28 pm:
Hello Frank, Rick, and fellow Net Pioneers, Thank you for a great ride down memory lane. What a ride.

There is one person in particular and three Wired West Coast sales people who have been overlooked in the stories over the past 15 years re; HotWired and selling the first digital publishing product/biz model. Dana Lyon was Wired's National Director of Sales who hired me, Ruth Tooker, Julie Nester, Jeanie Trautman, (the West Coast sales team), Doug Weaver, Mitchell Kreuch and the talented Rick Boyce. Dana was very instrumental to the success of Hotwired's launch and Ruth, Julie and Jeannie helped in a big way to set up and assist with numerous HW sales calls.

So how did this whole HotWired thing get started on the ad banner sales side? A fun story for the history books. Dana hired me as the West Coast Ad Sales Director to support the West Coast sales team to sell ads in Wired magazine. Dana and I shared 15'X15', maybe. office in San Francisco. Never forget-you could see between the mortar of the bricks to outside and no air conditioning. Wired was located in the original building where Rolling Stone magazine was produced and launched (I was told).

On one particular day Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalf called Dana and I into their office and said we have something to show you. It was a slimmed down demo of HotWired with a couple of banner ads. They were selling us on more than HotWired, they were selling their vision of the future of digital publishing. Bottom line.....the business model is ad banners and we want you to sell them. So off we went scratching our heads wondering how we were going to fit this on our already full plate.

It turned into a race, a challenge of sorts, between Dana, me and my West Coast sales team, Louis, and Jane to see who could close the first ad banner. Dana and our team hit the West Coast hard for weeks- consumer and technology clients and their agencies-. Louis and Jane were making an impact in the East. We met with Sprint, Levi, Microsoft, Saturn, Intel, you name it. Bottom line- No signed insertion orders. Dana seemed inches from a deal.

Louis souped up the HotWired demo (complete with the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile embedded video...ah ha you tube) and asked me to hop on a plane to head East to New York. Doug Weaver had just opened the NY Wired office and hired Mitchell Kreuch. So the 3 guys hit the streets of NY for two days. MVBMS clients MCI and Club Med were the first calls. The MCI meeting had about 20+ in the meeting, client and agency decision makers. The demo crashed 2-3 times. Steven Comfort, the visionary who clearly understood the benefits of this new medium, helped us make it through the meeting then introduced us to the President of Club Med.

To be continued (hit the word limit:-)
  By billpeck | Santa Cruz, CA October 28, 2009 02:33:05 pm:
I spoke to Dana later in the day to give her the run down. I told her the demo crashes didn't help in the MCI meeting and I think we left Mr. Comfort feeling not so comfortable. Dana pumped us up and said knock it out of the park tomorrow. Note: thanks Steven for the support and saving the MCI deal. We hit it the next day with a slightly better operating demo. Bottom line; I flew home on Friday-still no insertion order in hand.

The next week in SF Dana's deals were baking. Other West Coast deals are in the oven but nothing is baked, East Coast too. Hmmmm who is going to get this done? Sure enough-Rick is correct- on Weds. or Thurs. of that week Jane Metcalf closed the first banner ad. That is a "signed insertion order" in hand. Many deals were baking but Jane wrapped it up. OK we were excited-and all a bit jealous too;-).

The next week or two Dana said she found a product champion for HotWired when she was just on an agency meeting. She said we really need this guy. Dana and I were running around like chickens with our heads cut off and planning a move to the new Wired office. That guy was-everyones favorite- Rick Boyce/Hal Riney. Dana even went so far as to take Rick and his wife out for dinner to close his wife first;-). Nice job Dana.

So the rest is history. Rick pulled it all together and made HotWired a success. The whole Wired/HotWired team made a ton of sales calls, many of them made in the new SF HotWired office with Andrew Anker's team (Howard Rheingold in cool shoes and all). Some Wired sales folks got their signed IO's some did not. And of course HotWired could have never been possible without Jonathon Nelson and the creative Organic team.

Thanks to all the clients and agencies that jumped on board at launch. And a big thanks to Dana Lyon for her endless stream of energy, hard work, long hours, and hiring all of us in the first place. Thanks Dana-Trust you are well.

Cheers,
Bill
  By dcleek | Mahwah, NJ October 28, 2009 04:13:06 pm:
What a throwback. Brings back all the memories and nightmares of Silicon Alley, when it was literally little start-ups sprinkled though out the lower part of the city. Nice to see folks who started out then are st still around and kicking. Seems like ages. A colleague mentioned they read this article and they also stated some facts may be fuzzy.

Funny thing is your article centers around the nascent Internet In the spring and summer of 1994, we were also executing so-called banners (the term ad banner didn't exist at that time) for clients to be placed on America Online, Bloomberg, Prodigy and Compuserve. Executing creative for these online services was a challenge, and that is an understatement (think 4 bit color). When Mosaic took off in the early part of 1994, it was liberating from a creative perspective to say the least.

One other fact that may embellish your story, Razorfish was the first to do an animated gif. Where would ad banners be without the lowly animated gif? Remember the blue ball. Back then turning a graphic on and off or moving it was a technical feat!

One other note, in the fall and winter of 1994/1995, K2 Design also landed up a significant client: MCI. K2 created the identity and developed the entire "marketplaceMCI" website and contracted with MCI to build about a dozen or so web storefronts for their telecom clients who wished to be hosted with MCI.

Nice story. Brought back a lot of memories about silicon alley and the excitement surrounding that moment in time.

Douglas Cleek
Magnitude 9.6
  By FRANK | NEW YORK, NY October 28, 2009 05:06:48 pm:
Bill Peck, Thank you for your write up...I remember Dana..she was absolutely wonderful...held our hands through the process.....I remember excited to check out our banner positions and editorial adjacencies on October 27th and horrifeied to see the Volvo banner on a page supporting images from a weekend birthday party of one of the wired staff members where he was covered with cake and not much anything else- or so it seemed. I'm thinking the Volvo client is surely going to go apoplectc....I think Dana took care of it, but it was wild....we all figured it out as we went along ....thanks for the memories Bill...
  By MARK | PELHAM, NY October 28, 2009 07:28:46 pm:
Back then, the people who were most excited to buy online ads were media planners and strategists who were trained experts in 3 areas. 1) they were experts on their client's consumer, 2) they were experts at understanding how to connect the consumer's behavior to their media habits in order to build a targeted strategy and, 3) they had a deep knowledge of HOW ADVERTISING WORKS TO BUILD, GROW and PROTECT BRANDS (everyone of them had a worn out copy of David Ogilvy's "On Advertising" near at hand). What I did not see coming at the time was the notion that 15 years later, the media buyers who were the most focused on buying online ads would be young adults a few years out of college with no training in media communications strategy, no knowledge of how other media channels work and no idea who David Olgilvy was.
  By Doug | Charlotte, VT October 29, 2009 01:14:19 pm:
I've seen some great info and some mis-info on this thread. First, i did not "sell the first banner"....the first actual deal was closed by Jane Metcalfe, Wired's co-founder. Second, anyone who thinks that one ad or another "went up first" is mistaken. HotWired was an online magazine with 12 distinct "sections" -- Digital Alchemy, On the Road, Piazza, NetSurf and so on. Each section had a sponsor and when the site was "turned on" all those advertisers went live at precisely the same second.

While Rick Boyce was leading the charge as Hot Wired's VP of Sales, the Wired Magazine Sales Team was his "rep firm" and we sold (and often just did a fair catch) on the first Hot Wired sponsorships. I was the advertising director on the east coast and Bill Peck was the advertising director on the west coast. Frank D'Angelo and Steven Comfort, both then at Messner, were the most powerful advocates for the site and the idea among their clients. Steven was so good at "selling" Wired and Hot Wired to his clients that we subsequently hired him to sell for Wired.

When we began I had one sales person in the east, Mitchell Kreuch, now a VP at MySpace. Mitchell and I interacted with the east coast clients and agencies who were in that first wave. Volvo, Network MCI (Gramercy Press), Club Med and 1-800-Collect (All Messner); IBM (Ogilvy); Two AT&T; campaigns (NW Ayer cut the first deal and Modem bought for a separate division as well)and Zima (also Modem). I would like to tell you how visionary we all were and the intricate sales process we went through, but that would be fabrication. We were excited about it and took our little demo (running locally on an old Mosaic browser) to lots of clients and agencies, but really it was a few risk takers and visionaries at the agencies and clients who made the calls.

Interesting tidbits. There was no such thing as an analytic program (no Omniture) at that time, much less anything like an ad server (Net Gravity was still 15 months away from launching). When clients would ask what they got for their money, we told them "a month. you get to be on the site for a month." Pricing was $15,000 a month. Why? because that's what we charged for a page in the magazine at the time.

What all of us on the team remember with varying degrees of fondness is that the site that launched on 10/27/94 bore very little resemblance to the demo we'd taken out. Volvo sponsored a "digital travelogue" called "On the Road." By the time of launch that had morphed into a "visit to the counterculture." Frank, I was the one who took the beating at Messner over that one. It remains a great cocktail party story!

I miss those time and I miss you all. Happy birthday.
  By FRANK | NEW YORK, NY October 29, 2009 03:17:16 pm:
@Scott, thanks for setting the record straight, filling in the gaps and just truly capturing the spirit of the times....I exchanged some emails with Bob Schmetterer yesterday...he liked the article and he reminded me how hard it was to explain this thing called a "banner" and he finally just told them "trust me"...Happy Birthday to you too Scott..hope to see you soon...
  By FRANK | NEW YORK, NY October 29, 2009 03:21:37 pm:
where the hell did I get Scott....DOUG.....this just tells you how many brain cells I've lost in the 15 years....
  By FRANK | NEW YORK, NY October 29, 2009 03:21:40 pm:
where the hell did I get Scott....DOUG.....this just tells you how many brain cells I've lost in the 15 years....
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