The first online advert – 1994

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The first online advert – 1994

AT&TIn researching the history of online advertising, what has amazed me is that within 12 days of the first official browser being launched, Mosaic Netscape 0.9 (13th October 1994), Modem Media launched a graphical advert for AT&T.
Source: Brand Republic: 10 years of online advertising.

“Advertising didn’t exist on the internet, but the internet existed,” comments GM O’Connell, founder and chairman of Modem Media. “We had been working with two clients, AT&T and Coors Brewing Company, on other interactive platforms and started looking into how they could advertise online.”

And so on the 24th October 1994, HotWired, which was the online forerunner of Wired Magazine (now owned by, made history and a prophetic statement for the future of advertising by placing the first online advert on their site. It measured 468 x 60 pixels and read “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You will.”


And the users did. It achieved a staggering 42% click through rate!

Although getting all the glory, apparently HotWired may not have been the first to run the advert and technically we should credit Dale Dougherty, founder of Global Network Navigator (GNN), since bought by AOL and then closed.

“The one that got all the news coverage was HotWired, but the GNN banners actually ran two to three weeks before HotWired,” O’Connell says.

Which by my reckoning must have been ‘before’ the first official launch of Netscape!

Now that’s what I call faith…

For the record, the ad was created for Modem Media/AT&T by TANGENT Design/Communications with principal creators Joe McCambley, Craig Kanarick and Otto Timmons.

Timmons wrote on Adland, “although we had the most popular ad on Hotwired there were at least five or six other banner ads that launched at the same time and they too should get credit for being “first”. I can remember Club Med, AT&T and ZIMA… O’Reilly’s Global Network Navigator, GNN, started accepting paid advertising at the same time (one banner ad on the home page, as I recall).”

By |2016-10-12T20:46:14+00:00December 4th, 2007|1 - Retrospection, Advertising Technology|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am a Digital Transformation Strategist and focussed on global evangelism; helping position clients at the forefront of emerging media and the next generation of consumer engagement. I'm passionate about how storytelling and creative technology can be used to deliver focussed messages – irrespective of the consumer viewing device – and then drive favourable outcomes for brands, whilst addressing concerns over user profiling.


  1. Sanfrans December 5, 2007 at 06:24

    If only Modem Media (now Publicis Modem) continued to be as innovative today!

    I love it that clicking the ad now sends you to the campaign tv spots on youtube. they were surprisingly ahead of their time.

  2. Dean Donaldson December 5, 2007 at 10:46

    Interesting the call-to-action is still as strong today as then – and probably unlike most creative’s we see today… blows my ‘why the world stopped clicking’ argument out of the water then!

  3. […] But according to GM O’Connell (founder of Modem Media, which built the AT&T ad), though ‘You Will’ was the first, it ran first on Global Network Navigator (GNN), a commercial site launched by Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty (of O’Reilly Media who also coined the term ‘web 2.0′). ( […]

  4. […] But according to GM O’Connell (founder of Modem Media, which built the AT&T ad), it ran first on Global Network Navigator (GNN), the commercial site launched by Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty (of O’Reilly Media who also coined the term ‘web 2.0′). ( […]

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