Banner ads are one of the oldest forms of advertising online (circa 1994), but time hasn't rendered them ineffective. MediaPost notes that 80 percent of brands in a recent HubSpot survey still use banner ads to showcase themselves to their target audience. This time-tested marketing channel remains a staple of monetized strategies online.
Because of that long track record, the makings of good banner ads are well understood, but truly great banner ads are a more rare find. Even a relative newcomer to online marketing can find a simple road map for building banner ads with a modest degree of success. But ROI, conversion rates and other performance metrics are constantly coming under the microscope and being compared to performance seen in social media, content marketing and other emerging digital campaigns.
For banner ads to remain relevant in the future, being good simply isn't going to be good enough. Banner ads will have to be great if they want to stand out and succeed.
What Makes a Good Banner Ad?
A good banner ad doesn't have to be elaborate. The vast majority of these ads online are relatively basic: They feature clear messaging, a clean, but otherwise unimpressive, design and a simple call-to-action that's immediately evident to consumers. They're successful at increasing brand awareness, but consumers aren't exactly being met with an emotional or engaging call to click on or interact with the ads. In an effort to increase brand awareness, it's a good idea to keep the advertiser's logo present for the duration of the ad. As a best practice, be sure each frame can effectively live on its own, but still convey the advertiser and their brand. Here's an example.
Practically speaking, a good banner ad is one that conveys brand messaging and earns click-throughs at a modest rate. But, as the value of digital marketing increases, its potential ROI is also rising, thanks to smarter, more cost-effective channels. To compete, banner advertising has to increase its own expectations.
How Do You Turn Good Into Great?
One major step toward improving banner ads is to leverage the strides made in online technology — both on the marketing side and the consumer side. Banner ads are now capable of supporting rich media, including embedded video. This functions as a highly engaging feature of banner ads that grabs audience attention while increasing the likelihood of a click on the ad.
While a good ad features a clean, if simple, design, great banners require more consideration. Color schemes are chosen according to consumer behavior — the color red encourages urgency, for example, while yellow promotes cheerfulness — and the ads themselves may be more intricate and labor-intensive, thus demanding more from graphic design professionals. Note: eye-catching is great, but the use of color shouldn't be obnoxious. Calls-to-action are still present, but they've been refined to be more specific in how they direct consumers, and the language maximizes the opportunity for engagement and clicks. And remember, "CLICK HERE" is done!
Mobile friendliness is also very important. Now that we live in a time where mobile is king, it's imperative that banners work seamlessly across all devices. And when you take into consideration that HTML5 is the future, converting Flash to HTML5 for use across all browser on all devices is essential.
Finally, great banner ads incorporate the analytics and insights from past campaigns to become better than their predecessors. Thanks to the troves of data available both in-house and through third-party providers, these insight-driven ads are more capable of addressing consumer interests and appeals that past banners failed to recognize.
When it comes down to it, great banner ads are built upon insights gained from previous good banner ads. That's the nature of online marketing — smart campaigns are the product of evolution. Don't be discouraged when a lack of experience limits your campaign ceilings. Instead, recognize that the insights gained today will power great banner ads in the future.