The First Ever Banner Ad

September 25, 2014 Emma Cullen

Happy Birthday to the banner ad! Yes, October 27th 2014 will mark 20 years since the first banner ad hit our screens and things have never been the same since. BannerFlow takes a look at how the banner ad has changed from static images to HTML5 banners filled with dynamic content. 



Image of the first ever banner ad in 1994 when the CTR was 44% (compared to today’s 0.1%)


The first banner ad (although there are discussions to whether it really was the first banner ad) appeared on Wired’s website back in 1994 when there was a mere 30 million internet users. The banner ad came from AT&T as part of their ‘You Will’ series that promised the world that we would soon be able to do cool stuff like sending a fax on the beach!

In 20 years we have come a long way. We might not be sending faxes on the beach, but we are still using banner ads. Today, however, banners look a lot different to how they did back in 1994. Here’s 4 reasons why:


AT&T’s first banner ad didn’t even feature their own logo, or a button to click. Banner advertisements, in terms of design are completely different today, but the evolution of banner design has been long and difficult.

The 90s and early 00s brought us a terrifying stream of flashing and moving ads filled with garish red text and pixel art that were intrusive and annoying. There may be a few of these ad left hanging around like internet archeology, but I think we’ve mostly seen the last of these types of banners.

Remember banners ads like this? Ones that tried to trick you into clicking them.


Today, design has improved a lot. We are now able to enjoy banner ads with high-quality graphics, photos or even video that are accompanied with fonts, clear buttons and more subtle animations.


Design in banner ads has drastically improved as shown by this free banner template made with BannerFlow.

 2. HTML5

Back in 1994 the internet served as a static platform which contained pages of information. The banners were also static. In the past 20 years we have seen the development of Flash that has allowed advertisers to be more creative with their designs. Today, we see the development of HTML5 and responsive banner ads allowing us to view banners on our mobile devices.

3. Media Rich & Dynamic Content

Media rich content has opened up a whole new world to banner advertisements. The ability to include video in banner ads had turned our web pages into TV screens, allowing  companies to showcase their TV adverts online. This use of media rich content also reflects how our media consumption has changed in the last 20 years: we are spending more time online and less time watching ‘traditional TV’.

The ability to provide dynamic content is also revolutionising banners. We can now provide live data in banner ads allowing us show accurate information at all times. This technique is particularly useful for businesses offering prices, bets or exchange rates on their ads.

 4. Powerful Tools

There are now dozens of tools that allow us to create, publish, track and monitor banners. Everything from HTML5 banner builders to eye-tracking tools to stop banner blindness. The emergence of these tools proves that creating successful banner ads is an art and a science.

BannerFlow’s powerful banner builder is transforming the way we create banners.


Overall it is clear that Banner ads have grown a lot in 20 years, and are standing the test of time as they develop and change with advances in technology. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the banner ad and where we will be in 20 years to come.


picture credits: 

First ever banner: Mashable,

1998 banner:

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