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Working with Online Display Ads: Writing, Designing, Networking and Killing Banner Blindness

This is a guest post by Nitesh, who works with BannerWeaver.com – a site that specializes in designing Flash banners for you affiliate campaigns as as well as Ad campaigns, specifically, AdWords campaigns in Google’s Display network.

banner blindnessBanner ads may still be incredibly popular for marketers, but it’s also under threat all of the time from a phenomenon called ‘banner blindness’; the ability of web surfers to filter out the advertisements to the point where they never even know that the ads are there. This means that most banners have a low click through rate and low costs.

BANNER BLINDESS!

But, banner ads are fighting back. The allowance of the creation of eye-catching designs, rich media format ads and the ability to be more discerning about where your ads will be placed are all ways which the advertisement and the advertisers are fighting back. The best way to do that is to boost your ad’s strength through solid research and good goals. Figure out the objectives of your ad, your audience and of course, where the ad should run. Each goal has its own steps, so read on!

Gather Your Information

There are several ways to gather information on your marketing campaign.

1. Ask!

As always, ask and answering questions about your banner ad is incredibly important. The most important one is "What is the ad’s objective?" What are you trying to accomplish? Every aspect of your advertisement should tie back to the answer you give.

Ads to sell products vs. ads to build brands are the most common question because a product selling ad will need a picture of a product and a call to action. A branding ad will use things like company colors, name and logo.

But there are other things to look at too:

  • Type of ad to use
  • Dimensions
  • Images
  • Does your ad have to match other aspects of your campaign, the web page or brand?
  • What’s your message?
  • What will your call to action be?
  • Benefits to users?
  • What’s your audience?
  • Will you use an ad network?
  • What are the limits of your advertisement?
  • Scribble answers down somewhere and keep it close for future reference.

2. What Will Your Users Experience?

As marketers, it’s easy to only concentrate on your end of things and forget about the user. However, you should also spend some time figuring out how your user will experience your campaign. Make sure that everything is smooth and that you’re not missing anything during the whole campaign. A banner ad actually means more than just figuring out the ad: you also have to have a landing page with ecommerce architecture and you may need added gimmicks like video or music.

Ad Design

1. Attention Grabbing and Action Invoking

The old adage AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) holds just as true with banner ads as it does with any ads. A balance between the visual and text elements of your ad will both attract a user and create a sense of interest and response. You need both a visual element to attract attention and then a solid call to action and this often includes some form of motion.

There are actually three elements of design which are best to use:

  • Plain text
  • Faces
  • Cleavage or other ‘private’ parts.

And of course, your call to action should be something which is enticing. Things like ‘Free information’ have great results because people like the word free and information is always good without requiring a commitment.

2. Clarity

Ads should always be clear in what they are offering. Nothing about the message, benefits or other things should be muddy.

3. Honesty

You should never claim benefits that are too good to be true and you should always make sure that the landing page delivers on your promise. It’s easy to have calls to action like ‘You Won! Click here!’, but it’s impossible to follow up and your site quickly hits the scam list and dies horribly.

4. Ad Within content

Some publishers are willing to let you publish ads and text links which can go in your content or near navigation links in order to bring people in. But make sure that your publisher is ok with this before you do it or you could just end up annoying people.

Ad Placement

Ads can be placed wherever you want on a page since it’s just a line of code; however, where you are allowed to place your ad is up to the publisher. The best places are: top of the page, to the right or left, and middle of the page, though some advertisers also swear by the bottom of the page for very relevant ads since people will finish the content and click on your ad to learn more.

Ad Networks or Individual Publisher?

There are two options for running your ad: ad networks or individual publishers.

Ad Networks:

Running your ad on lots of sites is hard work if you do it all yourself and so ad networks is easiest for this. Advertisers usually pay on a CPC, CPM or CPA basis and then the network gives a portion of the revenue to every site hosting your ad. Networks vary in their reach, pricing, dimensions and ability to target an audience. Some networks give you a ton of audience details, others organize based on topics. Most networks will take bids based on keywords to figure out where ads should be placed. There are lots of networks to choose from!

Ad networks do have a couple of downsides. You have a distinct lack of control over where your ad will be placed and that means that your ad could end up somewhere completely undesirable to you. The other thing is that since your adds will be scattered all over creation, it may be a little trickier and take longer to track your results.

Individual Publishers.

Individual publishers work best if you want to micro-target an audience. You get more flexibility in negotiating prices and placement, you know where your ad is going and publishers usually have some great demographic details as well. All in all, it means greater control over the situation.

However, you lose out on the centralization of a network and that means that if you try to go with a hundred publishers, you have to go to each publisher separately to see how your ad is doing and that is practically a full time job in itself!

Targeting Your Advertisement

Finally, you have to let your ad out into the real world and set it loose. Targeting your audience as sharply as possible is important so that you can get better response rates and more convertible traffic. Contextual targeting is the key here where you make sure that your ads are placed on sites which are related to your advertisement.

About the author:  Nitesh works with BannerWeaver.com – a site that specializes in designing Flash banners for you affiliate campaigns as as well as Ad campaigns, specifically, AdWords campaigns in Google’s Display network.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily bgTheory. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

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  1. peterigg
    February 7, 2012 at 10:01 am · Reply

    Thanks Nitesh (and Brad) – a concise and informative overview.

    I’ve been pondering the idea of using banner ads for some time now, however I’ve long suspected that most people suffer from ‘banner blindness’, as you pointed out.

    I tend to be much more receptive (must be a subconscious thing) to remarketed banner ads, because in each case I’ve already got some familiarity with the brand in question.

    As a relatively new start up, I probably wouldn’t achieve the audience volumes required to achieve much sales through remarketing banners, however when it comes to brand building, it’s certainly worth a shot 🙂

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