The OG of internet advertising, banner ads may seem old school to some. But they are still a popular type of display advertising, and that’s because in the right context and format, they work.
Here, four online advertising pros share how they make them work in their business, and how you can incorporate them successfully into your digital marketing strategy.
What are Banner Ads?
Banner ads are a type of online advertising. These display ads appear on websites, in email or even on some social media platforms. They usually take the form of an image ad, video ad, or another type of rich media. The standard format is rectangular (though it doesn’t have to be). Like a billboard, they are meant to grab the viewer’s attention, but unlike a billboard, a user can take action– usually by clicking on a link or watching a video.
How Banner Ads Work
Typically, banner ads will be tailored to a site visitor based on their interest and browsing behavior, using cookies or other types of tracking. The visitor will then see the ad when they visit a website. That’s why sometimes site visitors will see ads that are different from the content of the site. They are being served an ad based on interests identified through tracking.
Banner ads need a goal, and that goal is usually to drive the viewer to click through to the advertiser’s website or some type of landing page.
Ad blockers may prevent users from seeing certain ads, including banner ads, especially if they are considered especially distracting. (Here’s how to advertise to customers using ad blocking technology.)
Are Banner Ads Effective?
“Banner ads are successful if executed and designed correctly,” says Joe Karasin, chief marketing officer for the DigitalWill Company which offers digital will creation and execution through 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 asserts.
If they didn’t work, advertisers wouldn’t use them. But that doesn’t mean all banner ad campaigns are successful.
“I have seen ads with no clear call to action,” warns Danilo Coviello, partner founder at Espresso Translations, a language translation service. “When people can't understand what they are clicking at a single thought, you have given them a chance to second guess. They might turn away. Call to action must be clear and easy to understand.”
Banner Ad Placement
Banner ads can be placed almost anywhere on a web page, and typical placements are the top, bottom, sidebars, and within content. Budget often plays a major role in placement. The more prominent the placement, and the more visitors the website gets, the more expensive the ad will often be.
Banner Ads Cost
The cost of banners ads are often quoted in several ways. The most popular are:
CPM (cost per mille or cost per thousand) basis, which means the advertiser pays based on a cost per thousand impressions.
PPC (pay per click) or CPC (cost per click) basis where advertisers pay for each user who clicks on an ad.
CPA basis (cost per acquisition) where the advertiser is charged based on the number of users who complete a specific action.
You’ll use analytics such as click-through rate and CPA to help you understand the effectiveness of your ads.
Many banner ads are placed using auction-based bidding systems through ad platforms like Google Ads (the most popular display network) or alternatives like Yahoo Ads or Amazon ads.
Banner ad costs vary widely, depending on the type of ad, placement (where it appears on the page), the target audience, and even your industry. While costs vary, with these platforms you can set daily or campaign limits to make sure you don’t go over budget on your ad spend.
Smaller websites may allow small business owners to place ads directly on their sites for a fixed cost, and it’s also possible to buy banner ads in email newsletters, sometimes at a more affordable rate. These may work if you are trying to reach a very targeted audience that a specific website or newsletter already reaches.
But generally, the more popular the site, the more expensive it will generally be to purchase digital advertising there.
Standard Banner Ads Sizes
Banner ads can be created in many different sizes. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) sets standard banner ad sizes.
For example, for fixed ad sizes, a smartphone banner will be 300x50 pixels or 320x50. Leaderboard ads are 728x90 and medium rectangles are 300x250.
There are many more types of ad sizes in use, ranging from square ads (200x200 or 250x250, for example) or skyscraper ads which run vertically (160 x600). There are even half page advertising banners.
The ad network you are using will offer ads in various sizes, usually in alignment with IAB standards, so you’ll want to start with the specs provided by the platform and work from there.
How To Create Banner Ads
If you aren’t a designer, there are software programs you can use to create banner ads. These include Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva, and Creatopy. Those tools even offer templates with different types of banner ads to help you get started.
Design is one primary way to create effective ads. The ad design should be engaging and grab the attention of someone who sees it. You need to stand out from other content, and overcome “banner blindness” where people tune out and skip over ads.
Web banner ads should also be designed with the target audience in mind, and optimized so they look good whether someone is viewing them on their iPhone, Android phone, a tablet or a desktop computer.
“Keep it simple and eye-catching,” Coviello suggests. “A banner ad is typically a small space, so it is important to keep it clean and simple when you design one. Also,use high–quality images, bold headlines. They help your brand look authentic. Consider using humour, special offers or other incentives to entice people to click.”
The other key element is the call-to-action (CTA); in other words, the action you want someone to take when that ad catches their eye.
Tips For Success With Banner Ads
There are two main elements to creating successful banner ads, says Brian David Crane, founder of Spread Great Ideas LLC:
“1. Create a clear CTA ( Call to Action) and make the copy easy to read
2. Pay attention to the banner ad size and optimize them for mobile viewing”
Less can be more here. Crane recommends avoiding “too much ad copy that makes it look cluttered,” or using “confusing copy with irrelevant CTAs.”
To be effective, “the banner ad should fit seamlessly on the ad platform it appears without it looking too ad-ish,” recommends Diana-Alina Aldea, PPC Team Leader at Creatopy, a creative automation platform that enables brands and agencies alike to build, optimize and personalize creatives at scale for various markets, channels and digital platforms.
“It should make people stop scrolling and it should not look like it wants to sell something. The banner should illustrate something relevant to the audience in a personalized way. Banner ads that are native, catchy, relevant, and personalized will win every time,” Aldea insists.
Knowing what you want the ad to accomplish is crucial.
“Make sure that you have a very specific goal in mind before creating your banner ad. If you're trying to get people to click on your link, then say so!” recommends Matt Benton, CEO of Trenchless Information Center and NoDig.com. Trenchless Information Center is a trusted resource for finding top-rated contractors for trenchless sewer repair.
“Don't try to trick people into clicking on something by making them think they're going to get something different than what they actually get when they click. Instead, let them know exactly what they'll get and why they want it.”
Another tip: “Utilize retargeting,” recommends Sarah Walters, marketing manager at The Whit Group, a digital marketing agency that offers website and mobile app development services. “Retargeting allows you to show your banner ad to people who have already interacted with your brand. This helps increase brand awareness and can drive conversions.”
“Say a customer visits your website and views a specific product, but doesn't make a purchase. With retargeting, you can show that customer a personalized banner ad for that product as they browse other websites, reminding them of the product they were interested in and increasing the chances of a sale.”