Ads that Actually Work: Looking at AT&T

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It has been almost 20 years since the first banner ad was placed.  AT&T released a black 468 × 60 small leaderboard with the question, “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here?” The font was multi-colored with an arrow pointing to the answer, “You Will” in white writing.

AT&T First Ad

This ad had a whopping click-through rate of 44%. Today the average click-through rate for online ads is only about 0.1%.

Then banner blindness happened and Internet users quickly grew tired of these kinds of banner ads. They have now become pretty good at ignoring them.  It seems we can no longer entice people with tricks to try and make them click.

Instead we have to use a more practical strategy: make better ads.

One of the most successful ways to to make ads that actually work is to check into what’s working for other brands. This is easily accomplished using our handy ‘Top Ads’ feature.

The Top Ads tool uses our Adstrength algorithm to help you identify top performing display and mobile ads.  Using the results you can gain new ideas for ad placement, ad copy, and other elements that improve your online advertising strategy.

This AT&T banner ad is currently one of the top ads…

At&T Top Ad

Big difference, huh? As you can see, they’ve adapted their ad strategy since 1994. Instead of trying to hide the reason they want you to click, they clearly state whom they are, why you should click on this ad, and a clear call to action.

One major benefit of keeping an eye on what’s working for your competitors is that you save a whole whack of ad testing dollars. Companies like AT&T spend big bucks testing a huge variety of ads only to use what works.

Check out all the different layouts they use to promote the same deal…

AT&T Similar Ads

Take a look at this variety of ads promoting the same thing. It’s more important to note any similarities rather then differences. See how there is some kind of face in every ad? They most likely found that ads with faces are more successful.

Here is a list of all the different sites that AT&T chose to place this ad…

AT&T Ad Placement

To be clear – This is not to say that every banner ad should look this way and be placed on the same sites. However, when trying to reach a similar audience having access to the advertising data of your competitors is quite valuable.

Let’s face it. It’s safe to assume that a huge company like AT&T has put a lot of thought (and money) into researching what attracts their target customer prior to releasing this ad. And if your target customer is their target customer…well, you can do the math.

Start looking at what’s working for others (especially your competition). You’ll save yourself a lot of time and money making online advertisements that actually work.

*All Images were taken from the WhatRunsWhere competitive intelligence platform


5 thoughts on “Ads that Actually Work: Looking at AT&T

  1. James Halloran

    Good thoughts! Mimicking a successful ad your competitor ran is a good way to start, but everyone should eventually test their own. It’ll only be a matter of time before certain companies start dominating a certain style, so it’s best not to be associated with that style or else you’ll be called out as a “copycat.” Or worse, help your competitor more by reinforcing their style.

    And there’s no respect or good in that for your brand.

  2. Zac Johnson

    Awesome banners and case study. I remember seeing all the old an ugly banners back in the day, along with the massive click through rates! Thanks for the awesome posting and bringing me back to the 90s!

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