It’s hard out there for modern day Mad Men. With the invention of the DVR, no one watches T.V. commercials any more. Meanwhile, the internet is ripe for advertising, but it’s controlled by the user. If you don’t want to see an ad, you can ignore it or even go to another site.
While no one’s crying over the predicament of advertisers, businesses share their challenge: how do you advertise yourself online? Banner ads are a popular choice because they’re relatively easy to make, and when executed properly, can be non-intrusive and even kind of fun.
Last year, Nielsen reported that display advertising (which includes banner ads) grew by 26.3%. Obviously enough people still believe in their effectiveness.
If you’re considering creating banner ads for your brand, here are a few guidelines to follow.
Don’t overdo it
We’ve all seen – and been annoyed by – bad banner ads. They’re big, flashy, and basically scream at you from the margins of your screen. Animated GIFs or overly flashy ads with bright colors – while attention-grabbing – can backfire. People are sensitive to aggressive salesmanship. They become inherently suspicious of in-your-face advertising, especially if it looks cheap (the exception being the city of Las Vegas, of course).
In a survey by AdKeeper, 54% of participants said that they don’t click on banner ads because they don’t trust them. If you come on too strong in your ad, or pitch something that sounds too good to be true, people will avoid you like the plague for fear of spam or viruses.
Keep it simple
While it may seem counterintuitive, people are potentially more likely to click on your ad if it doesn’t rely on bright colors and crazy images. Simplicity is key to building trust. When designing your ad, start by choosing a streamlined and compelling image. If your product is photogenic (jewelry, fashion, etc.), maybe all you need is a great picture of the item on a model.
B2B companies, on the other hand, may want to consider a graphic that demonstrates the benefits of their service. Logos may be a good idea, but only if they add to the image rather than distract from it. Text can also appeal to people if it’s concise and short. In fact, a little bit of text can go a long way.
Emphasize your call to action
In that AdKeeper survey, 57% of pollsters said they don’t click banners out of fear that they’ll open something that they wish they hadn’t. Your banner needs to be clear, which again emphasizes the need for simplicity. Even with an enticing image, people might hesitate to click through if they don’t know what the outcome is going to be.
Always include an obvious call to action. Whatever your CTA is (“Shop now”, “Subscribe”, “See how”, etc.), make it clear and separate from the other text in the ad. And don’t forget to follow through. If you advertise “Click for a free trial”, don’t take the user to your Home page. Make sure they’re directed to a relevant landing or web page with a similar color scheme.
Make it relevant
Privacy issues aside, internet cookies are a boon for advertisers. Marketers love cookies because they can use that data to customize their ads for each individual user. Typically, most internet users would prefer to see targeted ads (58% of people from the survey said that banners weren’t relevant to them), and so they’re generally okay with their data being shared.
Use cookie data to customize your banners. A great example of a targeted banner ad comes from Nissan, who used data from a housing website to show its banner ad to certain people based on income, neighborhood, and other relevant info.
With so many people clamoring for your attention online, your banner ad needs to stand out – again, not in the seizure-inducing, flashing-gif way. It’s possible to not only make your ad compelling, but fun as well.
This ad from Adidas is innovative because it encourages you participate by sketching lines on the ad itself. It draws you in (pun intended, unfortunately) on account of almost not even looking like an advertisement. Similarly this MetLife banner asks you to play piano along with Schroeder (the shy musical genius from Peanuts) by typing on your keyboard.
Banner ads act like T.V. commercials in that they create brand awareness. While they might not directly lead to a sale, they put your business on people’s radars, and introduce them to the sales funnel. One easy way to measure a banner’s effectiveness is to track its clicks through Google Analytics. If the user is taken to your site, follow their activity. Did they then subscribe to a newsletter or even make a purchase?
To learn more about how to make banner ads work for you, check out SPINX’s services.
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