The HP Pong Banner
Launched in 1996, this was evidently the world’s first interactive ad banner. Credit for the concept has to go to my partner Joel Hladecek (co-founder of Red Sky with me). It was simple: build a tiny functioning version of Pong in an ad banner, allowing the viewer to play along with a supposed engineer at HP (“the guy who built this”). Even though the game play was real, and quite compelling (people spent time in this banner), the complete run-time execution weighed in at less than 12k. Brilliantly coded by Chris Hurwitz, the dev team incorporated unheard-of tricks at the time; such as creating the bounce tone in the game from a single sine-wave slice of audio – replicated quickly in code. The graphics themselves were composited mathematically from one single pixel graphic. To this day it’s still a remarkable execution. No bandwidth, then, was the mother of invention.
The banner also performed well, drawing over three-times the click-through rates of other banners at the time (not to mention how much time was spent playing the game itself) and won many awards then and for years later.