Display advertising can be a great channel to target and even retarget customers on the Web. However, as banner blindness increases, marketers must be cognizant of more than when and where they’ll employ banner ads.
They also need to keep in mind the ad itself.
First, it’s important to remember the goal of a banner ad: to get a qualified click.
You’re not trying to make a sale, that’s the job of the landing page. The job of your ad is to get the visitor’s attention, grab their interest, and earn their click. These three objectives make up the MECLABS Online Ad Sequence:
ea = effectiveness of the ad
at = attract attention
i = generate interest
as = ask for the click
It’s in this heuristic’s three objectives marketers make three of the most common mistakes with banner ads …
Mistake #1. The ad doesn’t attract attention
As I mentioned earlier, the first objective your ad must fulfill is attracting attention. You can see that importance by the coefficient of 2 used with the “attract attention” variable. Attracting attention bears the most weight in the sequence because if visitors don’t notice your ad, then little else will matter.
There are five relative differentials you can use to help your ad stand out against other elements on a page:
1. Size – Don’t think of only the ad size, but also the size of any text, images, or other design elements used within the ad.
2. Shape – Again, you can play with the shape of the ad, but don’t forget the other elements. An image can be displayed in a circle, or text in a cloud-shaped graphic. Don’t be afraid to leave behind the right-angled shapes.
3. Color – You can be bold without being obnoxious. Use color to attract positive attention. While some ugly colors can gain attention, they can also affect how people interpret your message. Their distaste for a color can translate to you and your message.
4. Motion – Motion has been abused in banner ads, according to Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, in the Web Clinic, “Banner Ad Design: The 3 key banner objectives that drove a 285% lift.” Motion can certainly gain attention, but you must use it with care or you’ll increase friction with that increased attention. Make sure that text can be easily read and the call-to-action can be found at all times.
5. Position – If you can, you want to avoid the typical banner locations. Visitors learn to ignore content where ads are most likely found. Ideally, you want to position your ad in the visitor’s eye-path, where you know their concentration will be the highest.
Remember, less can be more. If you emphasize your ad using all of these differentials, then you are essentially emphasizing nothing at all.
Check out this webpage. The ad really stands out for two reasons: shape and color. The cloud shape pulls your eye to it on page filled with rectangles. The vibrant red also grabs your attention, as the rest of the page uses much more muted colors. But while it is brighter than the rest of the page, the red is not unbearable.
Mistake #2. The ad lacks value
So you’ve gotten their attention, but why should your customers click? You build interest through value. Every action you ask a prospect to make must have a value proposition. This is what we refer to as a process-level value proposition. Think of it like this:
“Why should [Prospect A] click this banner ad rather than any other element on the page?”
In the “Banner Ad Design” Web clinic replay, Flint reviews four elements you can evaluate to measure the force of a value proposition:
- Appeal – How much do I desire this offer?
- Exclusivity – Where else can I get this offer?
- Credibility – Can I trust your claims?
- Clarity – What are you actually offering?
Using these elements, where do you fall on a scale one to five? Work with your team to evaluate your ad in each area. Looking at the average score of each element can help you determine which areas to focus on for improvement.
If you were to see this Traveling Dog ad, what would you take away from it? Virtually nothing. There’s no message, no value, no “ask.” While visitors will intuitively know it’s an ad, they will not know what it’s for. With no value proposition presented, the likelihood visitors will click is slim.
Mistake #3. The ad doesn’t ask for the click … the right click
Many marketers and designers become so wrapped up in the design of the ad, they overlook a critical piece: “the ask.”
You need to make sure you’re asking for the click, whether it’s implied or direct. Also, you must ensure visitors know what they’re getting in exchange for the click. Will they be able to learn more? Buy now? Download a 15-page report? Use your call-to-action to set visitors’ expectations.
This banner ad misses some opportunity. The small “click here” does nothing to help conversion. Why should I click? What will happen when I click? For example, “Shop Our Sale” could have been “the ask” to let visitors know what to expect after they click.
While technically the entire ad is clickable, it helps to establish the action of clicking if you use a button design in your ad.
But, it’s not about just any “ask.” You need to know where visitors are in your purchase cycle so you can “match ‘the ask’ to the motivation of the ideal visitor,” as Flint said in the “Banner Ad Design” Web clinic.
If customers are new to your company or product, they might still be in the research phase. That means an ad asking them to “buy now” could result in no click. However, an ad that asks them to “learn more” addresses the needs the visitor has concerning your product or service.