How to Design a More Effective Banner

There are a number of different ways to design a great banner. Over the years, we’ve seen that the time-tested “truths” of traditional advertising are applicable to interactive media as well. Most of what makes an effective banner is pretty universal, but there are a few tricks that seem unique to online ad space. I like to think of them in terms of the 10 steps outlined below.

  1. Start with a great concept.
  2. Be relevant.
  3. Define your key metric.
  4. Never sacrifice your brand integrity for a cheap click.
  5. KISS – keep it simple, stupid.
  6. Focus on one unique attribute.
  7. Create an effective marketing mix.
  8. Be consistent.
  9. Don’t forget the “button.”
  10. Test your rich media banners for quality assurance.

Start with a great concept. The banner is like any other advertising vehicle in that it must start with a great concept. Your idea should have “legs” – it must be useful in a campaign and communicate the offer clearly.

Be relevant. Between the boardroom and the agency, the consumer is sometimes forgotten. When developing your banner concepts you must remember to stay relevant to your audience. Speak to them in their language, and make propositions that recognize their specific needs and desires.

Define your key metric. What is the banner (or campaign) trying to achieve? This must be determined before any conceiving gets under way. For a while, the click-through rate (CTR) was the most important metric. Recently, many online marketers have devised more complex metrics to define the success of an online campaign. Generally, these types of metrics rely on consumer behavior after the click. Registrations, transactions, and repeat traffic can act as qualifiers to the CTR. Clients who prioritize MediaMetrix ratings over anything else are the rare exceptions that rely on metrics based solely on “traffic” goals.

Never sacrifice your brand integrity for a cheap click. There are many ways to entice consumers to participate in your offering. Some are effective in the short term but over time degrade the credibility of the brand. As Internet advertising professionals, it is our responsibility to guide clients away from initiatives that are off-strategy for their brand. Fake-user-interfaces are among the biggest offenders of those going after the cheap click. You’ve seen them – fake HTML or interactive-looking banners that don’t work or sweepstakes promotions with a tenuous relation to the brand. Be responsible, and think long term.

KISS – keep it simple, stupid. Don’t crowd your banner with more than a single concept tied to a clear call to action. If there are multiple offerings or appeals that are relevant, use separate ad vehicles to communicate them. The banner isn’t and will never be a TV spot, so don’t overcomplicate it. For a banner, simple is more effective. Leaving something to the imagination is intriguing and can be a successful tactic by itself. Landing pages and micro sites are usually superior tools for communicating a complex offer.

Focus on one unique attribute. If there are several key attributes that you need to communicate, break them up into a campaign.

Create an effective marketing mix. We all know that rich media tends to produce a much higher CTR than animated GIF banners, tiles, and buttons. A successful online marketing mix integrates rich media with animated GIFs and buttons. Devise the optimal mix to achieve your client’s goals. This generally means you get real chummy with your colleagues in media and tech because only seamless integration of creative, technical, and media allow you to create a successful online creative mix.

Be consistent. While we may be tempted to be all over the creative map, it works best to define the entire brand vocabulary and use it consistently to build the brand.

Don’t forget the “button.” I can’t say I understand the psychology behind why it’s so necessary for there to be a visual indicator to increase the CTR, but it works. When you think about it, the entire banner is a button. Even to this day, banners with “Click here” and “Go” buttons still perform better than banners without them.

Test your rich media banners for quality assurance. Rich media banners are the most fun to concept, design, and execute in online ad campaigns. They tend to pull significantly higher response rates and create unique brand experiences. Used in conjunction with other ad units, rich media can create high-impact advertising. A robust Q&A process is fundamental in the success of rich media. Though tedious, time must be allocated to ensure that the widest audience is reached, and that a backup ad is available for viewers who are unable to see the rich media ad due to improper bandwidth restrictions on their computers.

On a final note, remember that everyone interprets the success of the banner based on different metrics. CTRs have been dropping like a rock, with recent research indicating higher conversion rates from consumers who don’t click on the banner than from those consumers who do.

Some things can’t be accomplished in a couple of weeks; changing people’s perceptions and creating an online relationship with the brand takes a long time. Capitalize on the unique opportunity to create a one-to-one relationship with consumers by entertaining them and offering them relevant utility.

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