6 Tips for Designing Creative Banner Ads

Andrés Clúa

Combat “banner blindness” and promote your brand message with eye-catching, creative banner ads.

Banner ads are one of the most cost-effective and wide-reaching means of reaching consumers, which is why they remain one of the most important tools in any online advertisers’ repertoire. They are also one of the most prolific modes of digital marketing, meaning that the space is highly competitive.

Any marketer wishing to make a splash on the web doesn’t just have other advertisers to compete with. Rates of banner blindness – where consumers don’t absorb any information from banner ads – continue to rise. Between a crowded marketplace and consumers’ growing indifference, it’s never been more important that marketers create truly eye-catching banner ads.

Follow these six tips to design your most distinctive — and effective — banner ads yet:

1. Maintain Hierarchy

All banner ads are made up of three main parts: the company logo, the value proposition, and the call-to-action (CTA). Maintaining the proper hierarchy between these three parts is vital to achieving a balanced banner ad and thus driving brand awareness and site traffic.

This Amnesty International ad is a perfect example of the hierarchy. The value proposition, “Become a Freedom Writer,” is the ad’s focal point and draws the viewer’s eye. It then leads directly into the CTA, “Click Here,” which is the second most important component of the ad. Off to the side, the company logo is prominent but doesn’t compete with the value prop or CTA.

designing creative banner ads

2. Keep It Simple

Don’t clutter the ad with too much text or overly-complicated visuals. Consumers are likely only to look at a banner ad for a second, so keep content and visuals simple to grab their attention when you have the chance. Opt for short, to-the-point copy, solid colors over wild patterns, and uncluttered visuals, like in this Coca-Cola ad.

designing creative banner ads

3. Use Buttons Appropriately

Depending on the type of banner ad you’re creating and what your goals are, a button may increase the click-through-rate (CTR) of your ad and direct consumers’ actions strategically. A button is likely appropriate if you wish to convey a slight sense of urgency — “Click here!” — or to facilitate action besides directing to your site’s home page, like downloading a white paper or signing up for a free trial.

If you want to include a button in your ad, place them after your copy in contrasting colors, but make sure to keep them consistent across your set of ads. These ads for Hulu, for example, maintain the same CTA button across a set of seven banner ads.

designing creative banner ads

4. Have a Clearly-Defined Frame

Like your CTA button should contrast with the background of your banner ad, your ad should contrast with the webpage where it appears. Because you often won’t know what that webpage is going to look like, you can make sure that your ad will stand out against any background by keeping the ad within a clearly-defined frame.

If your ad is white, consider a one-pixel gray border. Viewers’ eyes are naturally drawn to a subject inside a frame, even if the frame is somewhat subtle. This Apple ad is a great example — the thin gray line contains all of the ad’s content, which is perfectly balanced within the frame.

designing creative banner ads

5. Make Your Text Instantly Readable

Don’t detract from your snappy, digestible copy with an unreadable font. Stick to heavy, bold fonts in large sizes, which consumers will be able to read in a split second. Make the headline and body copy different sizes to help differentiate between the two, but both should be larger than 10 pt.

Even if you’re advertising a glamorous getaway or elegant jewelry, don’t fall for the trap of using thin, cursive fonts. Take a cue from this Tiffany banner ad: keep the message romantic, not the font.

6. Use Animation

Because a moving image is more likely to draw the eye than a still one, animated banner ads consistently outperform static ads. That being said, animation can be risky business. Keep your company logo within the frame throughout the duration of the animation loop, because consumers may not stick around to watch the entire animation.

With that in mind, it’s also important that you keep your animation succinct and ensure that it adds to, not distracts from, the content of your ad. This DQ ad is a good example of an animated banner ad. It’s not overly long or too cluttered, it ends with a punchy CTA, and the DQ logo is visible the entire time.

designing creative banner ads

Andrés Clúa

Director of Technology

Hails from Uruguay, runs web development at Thunderfoot. Past experience includes projects for major brands including Google, Lego, Samsung, and Salesforce.

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