Google’s experiment of introducing giant banner ads atop search engine results pages has not produced the necessary measure of success to merit continued use. After a limited run involving thirty advertisers, including Virgin America and Crate & Barrel, Google’s head of search Amit Singhai told the public that the company would discontinue their use. These banner ads were only placed on about five percent of the search pages produced by Google.
The exact reason for terminating the large banner program was not disclosed, it is assumed that the large ads did not produce the consumer actions that was desired. There has been some speculation that the lack of click throughs may actually be a smoke screen for other reasons. Several years ago, Google promised that it would not allow giant banner ads to head their pages. The public criticism that erupted in reaction to Google’ broken promise may not have been the primary reason to call the ad test a failure, but it could have tipped the scales against the program if the consumer response was less than expected.
The large banner ads were originally introduced in October of 2013. The three month long run utilized a large banner ad which included a wide graphic. Just below the image were various sitelink subcategories which were not a part of the ad, but were actually organic results for the search query. Some of the participating companies included Home Depot, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Toys R Us, Urban Outfitters, Delta Airlines, the Sports Authority and Southwest Airlines.
Because the ads were followed immediately by search results, there is some speculation as to how much of a response was expected from the ads. In almost all cases, advertisers should expect that users would only click the sitelinks rather than the ad image. These would lead one to suspect that the banner ads were intended for brand visibility rather than immediate click responses. If so, then Google would have been better off using a broader analytic to determine if the ads contributed to a greater number of conversions for the participating companies. There is no indication that this was the case, at least so far.
This experiment was extremely narrow in implementation. The ads only appeared on the search results pages of specific brand queries. For example, a Nike banner ad would only display if the search query was related to the company or its products. It is unknown how the pricing for these ads was set, whether they were CPC or CPM models.
IN 2005, the then vice president of user experience and search products, Marissa Mayer, had promised that Google would not allow banner ads on its pages. She also promised that no gimmicky marketing processes like flashing, popping or flying items would be allowed on search pages. It appears that with the departure of Marissa Mayer to Yahoo, that at least part of her promise was no longer a viable commitment.