They may not be known as the sexiest type of internet advertising, but banner ads are still going strong. They are used to capture attention, and more importantly, drive business. When done right, banner ads can be part of an effective online advertising strategy.
Here we’ll explain what makes banner ads successful, then share three examples of banner ads and how they helped digital marketers reach their goals.
What Are Banner Ads?
If you’ve spent time online, you’ve no doubt seen banner ads. They are a type of display advertising that usually appear on websites, though they may also appear on social media or in email marketing. They may feature text, images, videos or animations.
The goal of banner advertising is to capture attention and drive visitors to take a specific action, whether that’s to click through to a website, sign up for an email newsletter, or even to purchase a product or service.
How Banner Ads Work
Digital marketers create banner ads in a variety of sizes and formats and they include ad copy, text plus images, gifs or video ads, for example). They often purchase and place ads through advertising platforms such as Google Ads or Yahoo Ads, for example. When a user visits a web page, that advertising platform sends a request to the server to display the ad. (In some cases, they may be purchased directly from websites.)
Visitors to websites often see banner ads based on their interests/browsing history, demographics, location etc. Marketers must carefully choose their target audience and serve ads that provide a value proposition that captures their interest.
Banner ads will feature a call-to-action (CTA) that encourages an action the advertiser wants to see. While some banner ads may be designed to increase brand awareness, often the advertiser is trying to get visitors to click through to their website or a landing page.
Are Banner Ads Effective?
“Banner ads are successful if executed and designed correctly,” insists Joe Karasin, Chief Marketing Officer for the DigitalWill Company which offers digital will creation and execution via smart technology. “Banners are a great remarketing tool and can even be a primary acquisition method if you are looking to keep your overall CPC and CPM down” he says.
Brian David Crane, founder of Spread Great Ideas LLC agrees. “Banner ads are very successful even though they are widely assumed to be ignored by most readers,” he says. “Even Google remarketing entirely depends on banner ads and is considered one of the best-converting tools in the Google Ad network.”
What Makes A Banner Ad Successful?
While banner ads can be effective, they aren’t always effective. To get desired results they must:
Be visually appealing. You need an eye-catching design (or copy) that captures attention without annoying the viewer. The designer must walk a fine line between standing out and not being intrusive. And ad campaigns need to stay fresh to avoid banner blindness. Just like TV commercials that are cute at first can quickly be annoying after you see them multiple times, viewers may get turned off to web banners that are too repetitive.
Target the right audience and be relevant to their interests. Traditionally this has been done through the use of third-party cookies, though cookieless tracking is beginning to become more popular due to privacy restrictions.
Be visible. An ad that is buried on a page full of ads is less likely to get a positive response than one that is featured prominently, say on the top or side column of the site.
Offer a clear and compelling call-to-action. Advertisers should make sure the CTA works, and that it provides a coherent experience for those who do respond. Effective banner ads are often clickable, leading to a landing page or web page.
“Once you've decided what your goal is, it's important to focus on making sure that your ad fits that goal,” explains Matt Benton, CEO of Trenchless Information Center (NoDig.com), a referral source for finding top-rated contractors for trenchless sewer repair.
“If your goal is clicks, then make sure the CTA button on your banner really pops! If your goal is calls, make sure that the phone number in the ad is very easy to read and large enough for people to see without squinting or moving their heads closer. Finally, if you want people to buy something, make sure that they can easily find out how much it costs and how they can pay for it after clicking through the ad.”
It’s important to keep in mind that some site visitors may never see your banner ads if they use ad blocking tools like Ad Blocker. (Though there are anti-ad blocker tools that can counter those.)
Banner Ads Cost
Advertisers typically purchase banner ads on a cost-per-impression (CPM) where the advertisers pays based on the number of people who see the ad, or cost-per-click (CPC) basis, where the advertiser is charged when someone clicks on the ad. Cost per action or cost per acquisition (CPA) is another option, and there the advertisers pays for specific actions such as a sign up.
Costs will vary depending on all kinds of factors, including the type of ad and where it appears. But Crane says they can provide good value for the money spent. “What is most relevant about banner ads is that they give brands prominent visibility with correct placements and are one of the cheapest forms of display ad placements,” he says.
Standard Banner Ad Sizes
While creativity is good when it comes to banner ad design, you don’t want to create them in odd sizes that don’t work with multiple platforms. Instead, when creating banner ads you’ll want to follow the standard banner ad sizes defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). These sizes are widely used in digital advertising and help ensure your ads will be accessible across multiple ad platforms and user devices.
Some of the most popular are common banner sizes are:
Leaderboard (728x90 pixels)
Wide Skyscraper (160x600 pixels)
Large Rectangle (336x280 pixels)
Medium Rectangle (300x250 pixels)
Mobile Banner (320x50 pixels)
Half-Page Ad (300x600 pixels)
Banner Ad Placement
Where your banner ads appear on the page will depend in part on sizing and also your ad budget. The more prominent the ad, the more that placement will likely cost. A few examples from the sizes above:
Leaderboard: This is a large horizontal ad that is often placed at the top of a webpage. This is a very desirable placement because it is placed prominently and can grab attention.
Wide Skyscraper: Skyscrapers are tall, vertical ads that often appear on the left or right side of a webpage.
Large Rectangle: This can appear anywhere on the page, but often appears within content (between paragraphs, for example).
Medium Rectangle : A popular size, it’s often used in Google Ads.
Mobile Banner: Optimized for mobile screens, this ad often appears at the top or bottom of the screen when a page is viewed on a mobile device.
Half-Page Ad: This is a large ad that offers a lot of space for creativity and messaging.
Best Banner Ad Examples
Here are examples of successful banner ads provided by three digital marketing experts. These banner examples can give you ideas and inspiration for your own campaigns.
Example 1: DigitalWill.com
This ad was used in a remarketing campaign by DigitalWill.com. (A remarketing or retargeting campaign involves targeting individuals who have previously interacted with your brand or website.) “It had a click-through rate of 12.1% and a conversion rate of 6.33%,” says Karasin. “It was successful because it had a clear CTA, brief text, and a thought-provoking question.”
Example 2: EspressoTranslations.com
Here’s an example of a simple banner ad that provided a limited time discount to increase sales. Danilo Cavilo explains: “We ran an ad that focused on celebrating the Arabic Language Day. As a language translation business, inclusiveness is part of our culture. We want our Arabic-speaking clients to know we are together with them, and we share in their happiness. We gave 15% off all Arabic translations that day. It worked. We got new orders. We lowered our price that day, and our demand increased.”
Example 3: Creatopy.com
Extensive testing went into ads that Creatopy used to promote webinars on Instagram. Diana-Alina Aldea, PPC Team Leader at ad creation platform Creatopy explains that they started with different ads. The original ones show the name of the speaker with their image in the center of the ad. “Words like ‘free webinar’ are also mentioned,” she explained. “At the same time, we made sure the same thing is found on the landing page from a visual perspective.”
Results were solid. But her team decided to see if they could further increase response rates. They decided to test “ads that don’t necessarily look like ads,” Aldea says.
And the winner was surprising. “The ad that brought the most users to the webinar, in a large percentage (42.9%), double compared to the first creative, is the (image above). Perhaps it wouldn’t be your first choice to test when it comes to the promotion of a webinar. It doesn’t say anything about the speaker, or anything about the day and hour of the webinar, which are key details to mention, you would think.”
Why did it work? Aldea shares these observations:
“This ad worked because it is highly relevant to our audience, which is formed of advertisers who are interested in how to create ads that convert. We see a focus on the 'convert' word here, which has a slightly bigger font. The phrase is both catchy and personalized to the needs of the advertiser. Words are aligned correctly and in proximity to each other, making the message easy to read and understand. Then, the ad looks native to Instagram. It also has a balanced layout and a contrasting pink is added subtly. We wanted people to register for our webinar, but in no way the banner ad feels pushy in this direction. We surely practiced what we preached, and the results were visible.”
Aldea emphasizes the lessons learned from this experiment. First, she notes, there was the lesson of the importance of testing of the creative and A/B testing. And then there was the bigger lesson she shares:
“When we make an ad, there may be times when we love our ad, but maybe our audience doesn't. So this is another good reason to test more variables and see which are the ones our audience loves, which is way more important.”