Banner ads don't matter. Consumers have learned to ignore the top and side banner placements. The rectangular placement inside the content does better, but only slightly. comScore has been a champion of banner ads for brand reach for some time. USA Today just redesigned their site and are trying to make ads count.
The first step to making ads count is valid impression counts. This press release discusses how they plan to know exactly how many impressions an ad received. The next step is more sophisticated ad serving. Ads can be programmed to be highly dynamic. Visitors who've already seen and NOT RESPONDED to Ad A see Ad B.
Ad serving can help tune the ad zones toward conversion. No matter how sophisticated the ad serving tool great campaigns are the fuel of conversion, the missing link to make banner ads matter. Interesting to wonder what implications social has (read Laurens ten Hagen's Is Content Marketing the New Advertising on Curation Revolution http://www.scoop.it/t/curation-revolution/p/2865517443/q-is-content-marketing-the-new-advertising-a-yes-infographic ) for banner ads. Could you increase conversions with smart social sharing of ads? X number of your friends clicked on this ad?
This "social advertising" seems to be the real Facebook promise. When we know what our pack of friends thinks about anything online immediatlely soical media markreting won't have a ROI debate. I applaud USA Today and comScore's partnership and test. If they are successful at making banner ads mean something it will be good for Internet marketing. I suspect banner ads will only be a part of an emerging "market making" solution that includes social, content marketing and video to name just a few of the trends we are seeing.