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Banner ads turn ten years old. They've evolved, become flashy, carry sound, blink worse than the blink tag ever did and given birth to far more discreet things called TextAds.
So what did the first banner look like? Appropriately enough it was a future-predicting ad from AT&T in their "you will" campaign from 1994, according to the website that collects old banners and celebrates the tenth anniversary 10jahreonlinewerbung.
Otto gives more info about this banner in the comments;
For the record: the "Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?" ad was created for Modem Media/AT&T by TANGENT Design/Communications of Westport, CT.
Copy Writer: Joe McCambley, Creative Director, Modem Media
Graphic Design: Craig Kanarick, Associate, TANGENT Design (pre-razorfish)
Executive Producer & Art Director: Otto Timmons, VP, TANGENT Design
Brent Hood, CEO, TANGENT Design
Research Intern, Tangent Design (I will have to track his name down)
The Client, AT&T (a great guy and ditto on tracking the name down)
Although we had the most popular ad on Hotwired (according to Brian and Matt...) there were at least five or six other banner ads that launched at the same time and they too should get credit for being "first". I can remember Club Med, AT&T, ZIMA. Last but not least, O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator, GNN, started accepting paid advertising at the same time (one banner ad on the home page, as I recall).
Care to see the commercials that go with it? Robblink gathered them together - knock yourselves out.
(obvious: click on the images to view the films.)
AT&T – You Will/Market (1994) 0:30 (USA)
Via boingboing: Wired News Editor Kourosh Karimkhany says, "BTW, the first site to run that ad (actually, to inspire AT&T to create those ads) was Hotwired. As it happens, today the ol' timers are getting together for the 10th anniversary of Hotwired."