The Ingredients of a Stunning Digital Banner Advert

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In 2017, it’s more difficult than ever to get people’s attention on the Internet. Whatever industry you’re in, however niche it may be, there’s someone out there trying to one-up your game (unless you’re the creator of goat yoga). One of the biggest factors that will affect your advertising is getting your name out there in more places and shown more frequently than your competitors, but the quality of your advertising could make or break your campaign. Designing an effective banner ad doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact the less complicated your ads are, the better. Luckily for us digital marketing types, there’s been a lot of research and testing done to figure out how to produce a top-quality banner ad. The concept’s been around since 1994, so there are great examples of banner ads everywhere. Here’s a few tips to get your campaign off the ground.


Make It Eye-Catching

Like I have already said, banner ads have been around for a long time. That’s also a lot of time people have spent browsing the internet, learning to ignore banner ads. I’m sure everyone reading this will have completely ignored a great deal of banner ads thinking they’re totally irrelevant. I know I have. But if people typically ignore them, what makes your ads stand out?

Concentrate on the images you’re using. You have a fraction of a second to draw someone’s attention. How are you going to use that time? Use bold, bright colours, beautiful photography, curious 3D digital art etc. Be as creative as possible. Try to think of something that no one will expect. Take the time to look at modern design trends and find inspiration on the bleeding edge of visual arts. Your inspiration doesn’t just have to be from other banner ads; in fact it would probably be better if it wasn’t. Bright colours and bold typography are in now. So are high quality photography (not just stock, you can take your own pictures) and hand-drawn graphics. ­As an example of a pretty modern banner, let’s look at this new campaign from Sainsbury’s:

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At this point, the majority of people will already know what Sainsbury’s is and what they sell. What they need to do is get people thinking about them just to drive people towards their stores instead of their competitors’. So we have what looks like a woman dancing in a whirlwind of food. You have bold imagery, bold lettering and a campaign that suggests Sainsbury’s can help you be as happy as this woman right here. I don’t know what they’re putting in the salmon down at Sainsbury’s, but I want to find out.


Use Copy Sparingly

The imagery may be 80% of your banner ad, but what about the message you have for prospects? You need some text on your ad to make sure that you are conveying your message properly, but you must get your message across in a concise manner. You have a limited amount of space to work with and no user goes on the internet specifically for the purpose of looking at your ad; you have to give them a reason to consider your product in the couple of seconds they spend actively looking at your ad.

Say in a single sentence what it is or, if the imagery you’re using makes that obvious, say what it does differently to your competitors’ products. Keep it down to the key points; the purpose of the ad is to get a prospect to click if they want to know more. Users won’t stick around to read a paragraph of text in a 300x300 pixel square. Let’s use one of Huawei’s latest campaigns as an example:

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Here they have some stark imagery showcasing their new product and what is assumed to be a photo taken with the new device, their logo, the product name and a single sentence: “Make Every Shot a Cover Shot”. As far as I’m concerned the only other copy on the ad “My Pocket Studio” at the bottom of the photo is too difficult to read to be worth anything to the ad, so I’m going to ignore it. The copy is making a bold statement about the quality of the camera on their new phone, but only takes a sentence to do so. That’s all you need to entice prospects to find out more. I want to know what makes this particular phone’s camera studio-quality. One other mistake is in how they have included “Co-engineered with Leica” with the legendary logo underneath the product name. This banner is clearly aiming for a specific audience, and this is a huge partnership to be able to announce, but the logo is too small to make a statement. Leica is a world-renowned brand associated with some of the best cameras in the world and Huawei could have better used that angle to sell to a broader market. It’s small enough that you’d miss it at a glance; remember you have precious little time to get prospects’ attention in banner advertising.


Keep It Consistent

Banner ads come in all different shapes and sizes to accommodate all of the millions of devices that can browse the internet. You might be looking to produce several versions of the same ad with different imagery to catch prospects more than once. An easy thing to do is to forget about brand consistency; the arrangement and sizing of your logo, copy and imagery all work together to create the ad and can become instantly recognisable on a page. A well-designed campaign will be consistent enough that a glance at your ad should remind prospects of the company and products it represents.

If in the first ad your logo appears in the lower left corner, keep it there in the others. Try to keep your copy the same size, weight and typeface across your campaign. Keep consistent heading, body and call-to-action styles. This does not mean you have to keep exactly the same colouring as long as you keep the colour scheme consistent. Decide on a few colours you’re happy using across the campaign; bold shades, pastel shades or just off-whites. Anything goes. Take a look at this banner ad collection from L’École:

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Here on the NY Times homepage, we have three locations for banner ads which are all occupied by L’École. The larger ad is clearly the full representation of the campaign but, when used together, the smaller ads get the point across fast and while occupying much less space. The key is that the aesthetic is carried over to the smaller ads, despite the lack of space to reproduce the copy. They have reformatted their content to fit into another space beautifully. The grayscale imagery, the CTA and the logo are consistent across the entire campaign. While developing a campaign you must be ready for these different banner sizes, but it can be as easy as reorganising your content. Simple.


Make It Interactive

I’ve included this for a little extra credit, but it could drive even more clicks. Making an interactive banner ad can give users another reason to interact with your ad, other than the product(s) being featured. They could even decide to take a proper look at your product based solely on the creativity of your ad. Take this IKEA advert for example: 

Advertising almost 3000 products in such a small space has never been done before, and I personally wouldn’t have thought it possible. But, from a user’s perspective, it is thinking outside the box and is interesting to pick through. Suddenly I’m shopping for furniture again for the nth time this month. Sure, the advert isn’t a practical way to buy furniture, but it gets people thinking about it.

There you have it, my 4 ingredients for a great banner ad. No two banner ads are the same so use these tips as rough guidelines. Be as creative with your ad campaign as possible. Just because no one’s done it before doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

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