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if you've been on and around the Internet for a long time .. and/or if you're a webby/techie of some sort, you're still in the tiny minority and the banners aren't being displayed for you anyway .. they're for your not so web savvy husband or wife, the neighbor who just got his first PC etc.
It's about the power of branding, forget CTR. When your banner is up there, people see it, people remember your brand.
See, instead of just selling your advertising space, like the banner ads in the street, now they are forcing you to become their first line of sellers. Now you are obligated to optimize, identify creative placements, and aggressively promote their products in order to make a buck.
With CPM, they just have the branding benefit. With CPA, on the other hand, they still have the branding benefit and perhaps with even stronger branding due to your aggressiveness in selling their product, plus they get a guarantee that this marketing effort won't cost a cent unless they make money.
CPA is just a magnificent marketing strategy for the business with the product. They changed the relationship of Advertiser/Publisher, to one of Company/Independent Salesman.
Have you guys seen the one where spider man has to shoot down the green goblin? A mouse over creates a cross hair & bang! you fell for it- at least I did the 1st time.
There are always ways to improve the design & concept but I still see banner CTR lower than ever before.
I use two ad networks, Burst! and Google AdSense. AdSense is PPC only, but CPC campaigns have been on a sharp decline lately at Burst!... CPC is risky for both sides, because publishers have no way of accurately predicting what they'll be paid for their ad inventory and advertisers have no idea how much they'll be paying or what percentage of those clicks will be fraudulent.
There's still money to be made on CPM banners, and it's low-risk, low-maintenance income. CPA can make me more money, but only if I do it well and put a lot of time and effort into it.
And it won't be going away any time soon. The overwhelming majority of advertising dollars still go to offline CPM deals in TV, radio, magazines, etc, and that'll continue to shift to the Internet over the next several years.