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How To Make Great-Looking Display Ads

9 tips to make your display ads WORK

     Do you put ads on your Facebook page, or on your web page, or even print them on postcards to send out? Wherever you put them, what’s the point if they aren’t eyecatching to your prospects?  Display ads are the graphics that you use on the web, but you may also use them to coordinate with your traditional advertising, too.

Sean Callahan of Bizo wrote this article about display ads a few days ago, and I thought it was perfect for us. Sean said I could reprint it here, and I’ll ad my comments, too.  

Know your objective.

  • Are you trying to improve your brand awareness?
  • Are you looking to engage prospects with content offers, such as white papers?
  • Are you looking to drive leads?

Display ads’ flexibility allows you to reach your audience in the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. Where your target audience is in the marketing funnel will go a long way to determining what your message is and what kind of creative approach you use.

Think visually.

Just as billboards must rely on visuals to attract the attention of drivers speeding by, display ads must use images to grab the eyeballs of Internet surfers (or anywhere you put your ad). A standout visual will go a long way to getting your ad noticed, as the pictured Lockheed Martin ad demonstrates. The most effective display creative relies on 3 things:

  • an attention-grabbing image
  • a killer headline
  • short, to-the-point copy

Borrow from direct mail.

Display ads are like the first panel of a direct mail envelope – in both cases, they must “always be closing,” says Sam Karow, partner at Billups Design. When your goal is to generate conversions, have your call-to-action visible on every panel of your display ad. Also know that specific calls to action perform better; for instance, “Download the whitepaper” is preferable to “Learn more.”

Get it moving.

Motion can help your display ad get noticed. Studies prove that banners featuring HTML5, Flash, or rich media attract more eyeballs than static banners. Video ads also demand attention. “Well-executed animation” will get you noticed, says Michael Ruby, VP-executive creative director at SteinIAS Americas.

Tell a story.

Display ad example

Christiane Holmquist’s landscape display ads make me want to live in her gardens

With animation and multiple panels, display ads can tell a story. Ruby advises thinking about a display ad as a play. “Two-act structures are great for banners that offer content like a white paper, using a simple set-up followed by a call-to-action payoff,” Ruby says.

Test, baby, test.

It’s tough to test a print ad that runs once a month in a trade publication. But you can test many ads in a single day, or even in a few hours, if you test them on line. Take advantage of simple A/B testing to see which ads perform best. Because you have this luxury, take some chances. “Don’t be afraid to experiment,” advises Marcia Kadanoff, CMO at Bislr. After you test them on line, you’ll know which ones to use in your print advertising.

Use standard sizes.

Kadanoff says that four display sizes represent 92% of the volume:

  • 160×600-pixel wide skyscraper
  • 300×250-pixel inline rectangle
  • 468×60-pixel banner
  • 728×90-pixel leaderboard

Stick the landing.

Your landing pages should have a similar look and feel – and have the same message – as your display ads, Karow says. If the display ads and landing pages have the same elements, user friction is lower and conversion rates are about 40% higher.

Be patient.

Kadanoff notes that B2B sales cycles are long. If your sales cycles are, say, six months long, consider giving your display ads some time to begin driving prospects through the funnel before you prematurely judge how they are performing.

Many thanks to Sean Callahan — Marketing Director at Bizo and editor of DigitalMarketingRemix.com.


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