The 5 most memorable banner ads

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Rare moments of inspiration

I've read, written, and spoken about the lack of good online advertising creative at length. Usually, my argument is focused on the intrinsic downfall of working with small rectangles and squares and the lack of innovation industry-wide to break free of those shackles. I suppose I might have started to sound a bit like a curmudgeon because recently a colleague threw me a curve ball and declared, "OK, I get that you aren't enamored with what goes on. But you've been doing this for a while. Haven't you seen anything you liked?"

I have to admit that it was a head scratcher. I've been talking for so long about what I'd like to see in the future and what we need to do better that I had nearly forgotten what we've accomplished over the past decade or so. I started to think about it -- what were the ads that stuck in my mind? Why did they stick? What did I really like? I began to compile a short list of examples that moved the needle in creativity and execution. In other words, I made a list of "game changers."

But there were conditions to be made. I specifically limited my selections to standard and rich media banners. After all, there have been quite a few microsites and their siblings that were amazingly creative. Plus, you could be terrifically ingenious when file size and restricted dimensions went out the window. For example, I recall wasting quite a bit of time on that Corona microsite a few years back -- a beach with a sunset, one example I won't forget soon. However, it was (and is) much more difficult to be inventive and memorable in a 728x90 ad that needs to stop moving or doing anything in 15 seconds or less.

So, without further ado, here are the five most memorable, beautiful, or otherwise creative online ads I have seen over the past decade and a half.