If you surf Wikipedia as much as I do, I'm sure you're familiar with the recent addition of banner ads featuring the face of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and a simple message asking you to please read his personal appeal. I have to say, this campaign is the first that's managed to cut through the noise for me, apparently despite several previous attempts.
When I first encountered the banner, I didn't give much thought as to why this particular ad grabbed my attention. Instead, I was immediately engaged by the banner, and clicked through to read the extremely well written letter, just as Wikipedia intended. Since then, Jimmy Wales' concerned mug drew my eye every time I dropped in to read about the egregious pollution in Norilsk, Russia, personality theory, or whatever subject happened to be the fascination of the hour.
The donation numbers speak for themselves.
Of course hindsight is 20/20, but I'm not very surprised that a banner ad with a simple message accompanied by a very personal image of Riddle got people's attention better than text banners with pithy messages and guilt trips. As a marketer, you hear every day how important the personal connection with your customers is. The increasing business impact of social media has driven that point home, quite painfully for some. The Wikipedia case shows just how effective that personal connection, established by the banner ad, and intensified by the letter on the landing page can be.
Whether you're currently engaged in banner advertising, or considering it as an option, there's a valuable lesson to be learned here. Sometimes you don't need witty ad copy, flashy animation, or high end graphic design to be successful in display advertising. Sometimes, all it takes is the same kind of personal connection that salesmen have been making with prospects since the very birth of business. If you're running out of ideas for your ad campaigns, why not try taking it back to the basics?