Five creative tips for better digital banner ad design

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Five creative tips for better digital banner ad design
Blis

Big things come in small packages – by which, of course we mean banner ads. They may only be small, but as the most widely used ad format, banner ads are right at the sharp end of pretty much any advertising campaign. So you better get them right!

With literally billions of banner ads displayed every day, you’d think that how to make the most of them had been honed into a finely polished jewel of perfection.

But many ads we see are anything but – which is why we wanted to share Blis’ own tips for creating great and engaging banner ads.

How do our brains react to advertisements? Well, it depends on the ad. It takes 250 milliseconds for the brain to absorb visual cues, but only 13 milliseconds for images to elicit emotion – even if you aren’t fully absorbing what you’re seeing. So if you want to create more effective advertisements, you should use design and copy that foster an emotional response in your viewers.

That’s just one way that you can use neuroscience to improve your advertising. To learn more, check out this infographic from Celtra.

1. Don’t be boring

An obvious-sounding one to start but it can be difficult to balance a strong and memorable design with a clear call to action, as the temptation can be to throw in multiple features or calls to action. Preferably, aim to create a simple but bold banner, perhaps using a strong colour or bold border to make the content of the banner stand out and draw in the line. And don’t be afraid of using white space if it helps make your text or image really pop.

A successful banner is about generating curiosity and getting someone to click on the ad in order to find out more. You don’t need to sell everything about the product or service in one go, so just give them a teaser.

2. Keep it simple

You’ve only got a split-second to turn a glance into a click; have you got your killer tagline or sexy product shot front-and-centre of your ad? Or is it a mess of bullet-points that are trying to appeal to anyone and everyone?

One of the most common mistakes is trying to be over-inclusive, in the hope of getting as many impressions as possible. The problem with this approach is that you risk appealing to nobody, as the call to action isn’t distinct enough. Better to have a really clear message to a narrow target audience than a confused one that’s trying to speak to the whole world.

The general rule of thumb is to try and balance the visual elements. If you are using a photo or image, keep the text short and simple so the overall effect is easy to read. Or, if your banner is mostly text, use colours and typefaces that are quick to read and will stand out from the rest of the screen – which may also be full of text. Don’t overdo text effects like shadows or textures, as it can easily affect the legibility and therefore the response rate. And if in doubt, take a look at ads already out there, and take notes of what you think works and what doesn’t; after all, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

3. Think about the context of where the ad will be seen

With the rapid rise of programmatic advertising, exactly where, when, and in what context an ad is displayed is having more and more influence on both the initial click and the post-click experience. Take for example, someone using their mobile whilst out shopping to look up prices or product information; thanks to programmatic ads, that shopper can be targeted with creative that fits their geographical location (perhaps showing a local offer or store voucher code), time of day, and even the local weather. With such detailed targeting, the ad creative therefore needs to fit into this contextual viewing – there’s no point showing an ad for winter coats if it’s a warm and sunny day.

What this often means is that by working with the planning team, creatives can build variations that fit the targeting parameters of the campaign so that the best creative can be served based on context. This may sound like a lot of extra work, but recent research commissioned by Blis showed that 39% of UK consumers said that being served advertising that reflected their location at that time had a positive impact on whether to engage with the ad.

4. Consider what device and connection your ad will be viewed on

With most people now spending more browsing time on mobiles than laptops or PCs, it can be tempting to just aim for the lowest common-denominator, and use the same creative for every device. But as we’ve already mentioned, the context of where and how an ad is seen has a major impact on its effectiveness. There’s a big difference in how people use their devices depending on where they are. For example, when you are out and about and using your mobile, people tend to consume media in short bursts of activity, so the best ad creative needs to be simple and eye-catching, and most importantly, not include video or anything that’s going to hog bandwidth over a poor connection.

Contrast that with when people are using laptops, tablets and mobiles at home – where people tend to be online for longer, and likely to be using a WiFi connection. Then, showing ads that are expandable or have sound and video isn’t a bandwidth issue, and offers a different level of engagement.

5. Iterate and improve

One of the great things about programmatic campaigns is that it’s possible to see the response to your campaign in real-time, which makes iterating your creative through A/B testing much quicker.

If an ad isn’t quite performing as expected, it can be tempting to make wholesale changes in the hope of improving results. But making big edits means that it’s much harder to define what aspect of the ad isn’t performing, and you risk throwing the creative baby out with the bathwater. It’s better to make small tweaks and build on that real-time insight as you go.

If an ad isn’t quite performing as expected, it can be tempting to make wholesale changes in the hope of improving results. But making big edits means that it’s much harder to define what aspect of the ad isn’t performing, and you risk throwing the creative baby out with the bathwater. It’s better to make small tweaks and build on that real-time insight as you go.

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