There isn’t much doubt that being successful with banner advertising is becoming increasingly difficult. In the early days of the internet, the simple act of running banner ads would have been considered avant garde. But those days, of course, are long gone now. Today’s internet users are more sophisticated, and more blasé, than ever before. Over time users develop banner blindness, allowing them to tune out the advertising on a webpage in order to better focus on the content they’re really interested in. Not only are most users blind to banner ads, but many have also started employing ad blocking software to filter them out completely.
All of which is to say, there are significant challenges to getting people to pay attention to your banner ads. That’s why you need to work harder than ever to make sure your banners stand the best chance of attracting and engaging users. Banners are still a useful and effective component of your overall marketing strategy, but their design needs to be thoughtfully planned and carefully executed if they’re going to work. With that in mind, here’s a guideline to creating banner ads that get results.
Let’s start with an overview of the four elements every banner ad needs in order to be successful.
1 – Value Proposition
Strong value propositions are critical to success in pretty much any marketing channel, but especially so in a medium like banner advertising, where the goal is to convince a user that they should take a specific desired action.
The value proposition is the answer to the question: why? Whyshould I click on this banner? Why do I care about whatever this banner is advertising? Why should I be interested in this company? Your ad needs to convince the user that you are solving a problem they have, offering something they really want (even if they don’t know it yet), or filling a need or void.
2 – Visual focal point
Banner ads are a visual medium and it’s critical that they have a strong visual element to attract the user’s eye. The visual component of your ad is what’s most likely to catch someone’s attention.
Because with banner ads you’re working with a very limited amount of space, it’s important not to inundate the user with too many visuals. An ad cluttered with visuals will overwhelm users. Users who feel overwhelmed will quickly reject your ad regardless of how strong the value proposition is.
Stick to a single compelling image or visual that will catch someone’s eye and, hopefully, entice them to learn more. The image should be aligned with overall brand aesthetics and make sense within the context of the ad’s value proposition.
3 – Branding
If you want users to know who you are, then your ad needs to be branded. That means including your logo, your business name, and designing the entire thing to align with your brand standards. Including your branding not only tells people who you are, it also helps maintain a consistent experience between banner ad and landing page. If the branding carries through from one to the next, it makes the experience feel as unified as possible.
Including your branding in your ads also helps increase their perceived trustworthiness. Users don’t want to click on an ad that seems like it comes from a sketchy company, and lack of branding screams sketchy company. Always include your branding to make sure your ads look as legitimate and trustworthy as possible.
4 – Call-to-action
Finally, your ad definitely needs to have a call-to-action. If you don’t prompt users to take an action, chances are they won’t. Sure, the entire banner is probably clickable, and technically users don’t need to click on the CTA to trigger the link, but CTAs are more than just links, they’re prompts. They encourage users, and guide them towards the action you want them to take. In other words, they’re an essential component of banner ad design.
But it isn’t the case that you can slap any old CTA on a banner ad and expect it to perform. First of all, your CTA needs to be clear. Usually anything too vague will cause more confusion or trepidation for users. The CTA “explore”, for example, might have users wondering what, exactly, they’re going to be exploring if they click on your ad.
More specific CTAs are usually better as they cue the user on what to expect. That said, they also have to make sense within the context of the rest of the ad and they have to reflect the action the user is expecting to take. For example, an ad designed to target someone at the top of the funnel probably isn’t well-served by a CTA to “get in touch”, since users aren’t likely to be ready for that step yet.
From a design perspective, CTAs must be easy to identify and differentiate from the remainder of the ad creative. CTAs that fade into the background or are overshadowed by other components of the ad are bound to get ignored.
A few additional tips:
So those are the basic rules to creating banner ads that get results, but there are a few more things to keep in mind as you plan your campaigns.
In a clamor to attract attention, many banners ads simply try to do too much at once. Remember that banner ads are small and so are attention spans. You can’t convey everything that’s great about your company in a single banner, so you need to keep it simple and focus on conveying a single, compelling message.
Above all, your banner ads need have consistency — consistency of message and consistency of experience.
Consistency of message means that the way your campaign is messaged should be consistent across ad formats and sizes. Banner ad messaging should also align neatly with the messaging on your website and other marketing channels. Everything should feel connected and unified.
Consistency of experience means that the experience created by your ad should be mirrored on the landing page the ad directs to. Your goal is to make the user feel as though clicking through to the landing page is just another step in a single, unified journey. If you do not manage to create a consistent experience, users who come to your landing page via a banner ad may feel let down or confused by the content they find.
One thing that can really push your banner performance to the next level is an offer. For users further down the funnel, an offer can act as a value proposition — since in that scenario users are already aware of your brand, the offer acts as a value proposition by telling them why they should convert. Offers can also be incorporated within the value proposition (eg; “Get free shipping on the world’s most comfortable mattress”) or within the text of the call-to-action (eg; “sign up for free”).
We can tell you the best practices for creating ad banners, but we have no way of knowing which specific combinations will work best for your brand. And neither do you, unless you’ve tested them. The value of testing cannot be overstated. Test every element of your banner ads — value propositions, visuals, CTAs, and offers — until you find the combinations that work best for your specific brand and your specific campaign.
Banner advertising is one of the more difficult marketing channels in which to make your brand stand out, but with the right campaign and design strategy, it can certainly be done. Remember the basics of banner ad design — value proposition, visual focal point, branding, and a strong CTA. Always keep user desires and expectations in mind. Make sure your ads can be easily interpreted by speaking clearly and plainly about what sets you apart. Follow through with a landing page that is consistent with the experience and expectations you have set with your ads.