How to ensure your banner ad actually works

Yesterday I mentioned running “image ads” around the web through Google, but of course you can always book them direct with third-party websites if you like doing lots of individual negotiations with publishers. Either way, it might be worth talking now about the design of image (or “banner” ads), which in the main is still terrible. Sadly, the culprits are, by and large, advertising agencies, who ought to know better. Most seem to have just told one of their designers (who traditionally did magazine ads) that now they’re an online ad designer, without any acknowledgement that it’s a very different concept. The results are so bad that the whole idea of banner ads has suffered through poor response. Even worse, I could have written this paragraph seven or eight years ago; nothing’s really improved.

Banner ads don’t have a great reputation in small- to medium-sized business marketing, but there’s a reason why the big advertisers (who measure response down to the last dot) spend a lot of money on them.

An effective banner, button or panel ad isn’t that hard to create. Many of its features are shared with effective print ads, although many of those seem to get forgotten about in the rush to take advantage of the fact that online ads can – gosh – move. Firstly, the ad needs a good balance of text and images, and it needs to match the look and feel of the landing page you’re sending people to. Then, if you decide that some sort of animation or multi-page presentation is really necessary, the branding needs to remain on screen at all times, as does the call-to-action. They should not be left to the end in the arrogant assumption that the viewer is going to sit and watch the whole thing. Finally, numbers, value propositions and even a sense of urgency can all help attract increased interest. Put all these together and you can create an online ad which will really generate some response.

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