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Banner Ad Turned 20

November 25, 2014

ATT Banner Ad

Last month if you had found a time machine and turned the dial back 20 years you would have seen the first set of banner ads.  HotWired.com partnered with fourteen companies to try something new and innovative.  If you want to go back in time and see what AT&T did as one of these collaborators and early adopters, look at the top of this posting or go to www.thefirstbannerad.com (don’t worry about feeling nostalgic and setting your video settings to 640×480 first).  Go ahead and click on the banner ad and check out the static text landing page that had 3 hyperlinks, which then buried a couple of pages that were pretty dramatic and jaw dropping for the day).

One of the coolest aspects of their first banner ad was that they tied it in to a video advertising promotion that they had been running both on CD-ROM (as magazine inserts) and on TV.  The campaign was called “You Will” and it featured some of their predictions for what people would be able to do in the future due to technology.  You can see a compilation of these videos here.  It’s worth going through them all.  Video didn’t stream on the internet back then, but the “You Will” tagline tied their messaging and unique content delivery across multiple mediums together for them.

What is ironic about these predictions is that they pretty much nailed all of them, but one.  We may still be waiting for personal medical records, but the prediction they missed was one that was in their own space at the time.  How is it they were able to predict all the others, but not their own?  Quite simply they suffered from a phenomenon known as Innovator’s Dilemma.  Simply put they were too close the problem, could only see the solution in terms of how they would solve it based on their domain knowledge of the day, and they failed to ask the question “How would others do this?”

I’m a big fan of a methodology called “The 6 Qs” when trying to take on an initiative or problem (I’ll explain it in a future post).  Question 5 is “How have others solved this problem?”  All too often many of us think that when it comes time to solve a problem that we have to leverage our own creative juices to find the answer.  Most of us leverage our own experiences within our space, try to leverage how our products work today, and then try to leap to the next logical change or enhancement that would get us to the solution.  Our starting point is often based on where we are standing today vs. from where others are standing.

The truth is that many notable innovations come from what has already been invented.  The reality is that these stem from leveraging a solution in an adjacent space and reapplying it in your own domain in a way that delights your customers.  History is full of examples of people and companies credited with inventing or innovating something really transformative to an industry.  The dirty secret is that if you peel away the layers of the onion you often find they were the ones who saw a solution in an adjacent space and were the first to make the leap as to how to apply it within their own domain.

How will somebody else from an adjacent space out innovate you as you work from where you stand today?

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