HP PONG (1996)

banner ad






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HP Pong was the first interactive ad banner on the Internet, meaning, it provided interactivity, and value, beyond a link. As such it was recognized as the Internet's first example of "rich media" advertising.


It was further reported to have had the highest click-through of any banner on the internet for the 3 months it was in circulation (reported by CNET and MSN). And yeah, that's admittedly back when we measured "click-through".


After HP Pong’s initial success, we assumed that was that. But what happened next was a turning point for those of us at Red Sky Interactive.


We began to see the Pong banner stolen. No kidding, users were copying the .dcr file from their caches and posting it on their own sites outside the media buy. Maybe more profoundly, they were attaching it to e-mails and sending it to their friends; at the time, neither was a user-friendly effort. Keep in mind - at this time there was no such thing as "viral marketing". There was no such thing as "Word of Mouth" as in today's popular online nomenclature. No one put buttons on web sites that said "Send to a friend". No one was making games-as-advertisements. This was before all that. In fact, in part, this revealed all that.


That banner was the first of it's kind, and like an atom smasher, it revealed a potpourri of rules and consumer behaviors that are the very basis of interactive advertising. So it strikes me as disappointing that in the years that followed HP Pong, interactive advertising has made such little progress beyond it. The principles revealed by this banner 12 years ago are still being frequently rediscovered, as though the ideas were new.


In it's original release HP Pong was a mere 11K in size, which was less than most of the static banners of the time. That's because most of the hard work was being




done in code- math- not graphics or video files as most developers do today. For example, in an effort to make the sounds small, we created an audio file that was a single sine wave. Played alone, you'd hear nothing- it was far too short to pick up. But thanks to Chris Hurwitz's coding, when required in the game, it programmatically repeats the sine wave hundreds of times resulting in the classic "boop" sound that's heard when the ball hits your paddle.


At one point during development, I mentioned to Chris how amazing I thought it was that we'd managed to find so many graceful ways to reduce the banner's size. He reminded me that NASA sent a man to the moon with less memory than was required by our banner. Puts things in perspective doesn't it.


The client hired Red Sky to create simple animated GIF banners based on their print campaign which was what everyone was doing then. But you didn't hire Red Sky to do what everyone else was doing. We were intentionally a little like Fantasy Island in that regard; you came in thinking you wanted "X", and you left with what you really needed, something more advanced, usually not "X".


I'm still on that mission today. There's a bigger picture, the medium is nascent, and Interactive advertising has such a long way to go.





Red Sky Interactive

Concept / Creative Director: Joel Hladecek

Programmer: Chris Hurwitz

Copywriter: Richard Ciccerone

Artist: Kelly Clark

Client: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, HP



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©Copyright 2008 Joel Hladecek