UDS Blog

What makes a good display ad?

I’m sure you’ve seen banner and display ads on any website you’ve explored online, some good and some very bad. But do you know what makes a banner ad good? In this article we’ll dive into some key aspects of display banner ads, why display ads can be effective, and what can make or break your banner ad’s effectiveness.

When done properly, display ads provide an interactive experience that quickly reaches the masses and are easily digestible in a split second by consumers. They can work as standalone pieces or as part of an integrated campaign, and can be effectively incorporated into all three stages of the purchase cycle. In the first stage, awareness, they help create buzz around your campaign and promote solutions to consumers. In acquisition, they help garner information about your target audience. And as engagement, they help foster a relationship between your brand and target consumer while providing a positive user experience. Let’s look at some important attributes that differentiate the good display ads from the bad.

Understand your objective/goal
An effective display campaign starts with identifying the primary goals and objectives of your campaign. Without knowing your campaign’s goals, running display ads will never be as effective as a goal-oriented campaign. Building display ads that align completely with your goals allows you to properly define where in the purchase cycle your display ad belongs and what its objective will be. This ties back directly to the stages of the purchasing cycle. Awareness objectives will require slightly different ads than acquisition and engagement objectives.

Tailor your message to a specific audience
There’s nothing worse than creating a beautiful, well-designed ad and targeting the wrong audience with it. The best banner ads tailor their message to a very specific audience for each phase of the purchase cycle. The more relevant it is to your audience, the more likely you’ll see high rates of conversion and engagement. A strong message will emphasize benefits for the consumer. The message is much more important the overall design, so focus on making the copy crisp and attractive to your audience.

The Good

In only a few words, this Adobe ad prompts their target audience of photography enthusiasts to try their photography plan at a low price point by using an attractive, high quality image and catchy copy.

The Bad

This is a bad ad because it’s not specific to a target audience. While you might still reach your target audience, you’ll likely also get clicks from people you’re not interested in targeting because of the generalized content in the ad.

KISS/CTA
A general rule of thumb for display campaigns: Keep It Simple. The more complex and busy your ad design is, the less effective it becomes. Cut right to the chase when it comes to your copy. Include an explicit call to action (CTA) and make sure it effectively engages consumers.

Despite the limited amount of space on your ad for each element and the need to be concise, it’s vital that you develop a strong hierarchy in your display:

  • Keep your message succinct. Using keywords in your ad will help keep it simple and focused. Use a button on your ad and keep your action words short and descriptive – no more than 10 or so words.
  • Make sure your logo/branding element is prominent enough to be recognized.
  • Finally, incentivize consumers with a strong CTA and emphasize any available sales, deals, and benefits without overloading the design.

The Good

This Amazon Prime ad doesn’t waste any time telling you what it’s offering. The logo doesn’t take up too much space but is still readable, the color scheme grabs your attention, and the copy immediately shares Prime’s benefits and offers a free month.

The Bad

This ad, on the other hand, is far too cluttered. The image is low quality and the larger logo next to it is unnecessary. There’s a lot of text and fine print, and the copy doesn’t clearly convey what the ad is offering.

Design
Ensure that each iteration of your display ads contains sufficient branding elements. This helps with brand retention and encourages consumers who are familiar with your brand to click on the ad. Effective branding within an ad limits the need for a lot of explanation.

There are a few ad sizes more common than others. Using these common, standard format sizes is the best way to make sure your ad gets placed, and these formats actually improve CTR. The most popular ad sizes on exchanges are 300×250, 160×800, and 728×90. Using these formats give your ads a higher chance of getting placed and driving higher amounts of traffic.

In addition to using common ad sizes, you should make ads specifically for mobile placements. Not every website and placement is optimized for both desktop and mobile placements. Including ads designed to run on mobile only will help improve efficiency in your campaign. Mobile ad sizes include 320×50, 300×250, and 320×480.

The Good

Standard ad sizes in this Apple display campaign make it easy to get consistent placement, both on mobile and desktop.

The Bad


This is a mobile interstitial ad, which will load a few seconds after a consumer begins reading the website’s content. Not only are they disruptive and annoying, they can usually only be rid of by clicking a small X somewhere on the ad. They also lead to resentment for their brand.

Integrated strategy on/offline
The most effective banner ad will always be the one included in a cohesive campaign strategy involving elements outside of your display ads. By combining on and offline efforts, you maximize brand awareness and help improve overall engagement with your ads wherever they’re placed.

This includes occasionally refreshing your campaign’s creative and design. Avoiding ad exhaustion is important in keeping audiences happy with your content.
And finally, if you want people to click on your ad, make sure the landing page works and is in line with what the ad promotes. An inaccurate landing page leads to high bounce rates and annoyed consumers.

The Good

These Intel display ads use the same celebrity spokesperson and products as featured in their traditional media placements, maintaining campaign fluidity and efficiency.

The Bad

As described by one blogger, this Sony ad offers 20% off laptop accessories. However, clicking on the ad led to an inefficient landing page full of faulty buttons, the customer had an 11 day wait time for a confirmation email, and when it finally did arrive it didn’t contain the offer as advertised. This failure to seamlessly integrate the entire consumer purchase process is debilitating for any brand’s reputation. Keep these tips in mind as you build your next display campaign, and reap the benefits of improved performance and efficiency.

Sources:
https://www.bannersnack.com/blog/banner-ads-examples-from-tech-industry/
https://nxteramarketing.com/2007/10/23/how-poorly-integrated-marketing-impacts-experience/
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