Effective banner advertising has two main functions — branding and response — but ads don’t always do both jobs equally well. We take a look at which purpose makes the most sense for a client.
The early days of online advertising based its reputation on clicks, which is the main response function of the ads.
During that time, a typical Web page had few ads, and those ads were much smaller than today. The small ad sizes limited the use of graphics and emphasized text because it was space efficient.
As an example, one of the first standard ad sizes was the strong horizontal size — the 468 by 60. That size has been replaced by the 728 x 90 and the 970×90.
However, the Internet became flooded with banners. It was the result of a vast increase in the number of sites, the skyrocketing page views and ad inventory, and an increase in the number of ads per page.
This led to a steep decline in average click-through rates and therefore the response value of banner ads.
Online ad rates plummeted as well. Site visitors were overwhelmed and began to block out the ads.
The trend started to reverse as ad sizes grew larger, which allowed ad creators to focus more attention on graphics and brands. As a result, effective banner advertising could serve both response and brand depending on the advertiser and campaign.
One big challenge is getting both publishers and advertisers to understand the importance of branding in any effective banner campaign.
7 Simple Design Tips
The best banner ads have much in common with outdoor billboards. Billboards typically have one simple but powerful image and a handful of words. They are designed that way because people driving by will look only for a few seconds at most.
Good banner ads are built with the same goal in mind. A project from Microsoft Research found that the first 10 seconds that people spend on a Web page is critical in deciding whether they stay or leave.
To improve the chances they will see and respond to an ad, follow these tips:
- Use one great image to attract attention — or none at all.
- Use a small logo for company branding.
- Offer a call to action with the fewest words possible.
- Keep file sizes small for fast loading.
- Try Flash or other forms of animation, but keep #4 in mind.
- Choose attractive colors and fonts.
- Design it to stand out while complementing the surrounding site.
Effective Response Ads
Although most people think of ad response rates as the ratio of clicks to impressions, good response ads include more than just the ability to click through to the advertiser’s Web site. They also should include a phone number, email address or business address when possible.
A number of online operations have found success with using a phone number in particular because it allows a client to call from their desk right as they see the ad.
Some operations even provide a toll-free number to their clients as a way of tracking the number of calls. Newspaper and TV station Web sites that use the toll-free numbers for automotive dealers have reported more leads from the phone numbers than from emails or clickthroughs.
The metrics above are direct response measurements. Indirect response includes in-store visits for retail by people who saw the ad and later made the response by going to the store.
Other good candidates for response advertising include mortgage companies, travel services (cruises, airlines, agents), real estate and financial services — businesses that typically are information-intensive and that draw a high number of phone calls rather than personal visits from potential customers.
Putting it together, there are several ways of measuring the responses:
- Cost per total responses
- Cost per lead
- Cost per acquisition (the sale)
Effective Branding Ads
Businesses such as real estate, automotive, entertainment and travel destinations that do draw personal visits from potential customers are good candidates for banner ads that emphasize branding.
These businesses find benefit from short-term campaigns that focus on sales, events, seasonal peaks and other time-based activities.
Branding-focused ads emphasize images, and as a result they gravitate toward the larger ad sizes that are becoming more popular.
Those large sizes include the 970×90 mentioned earlier as well as the 300×600 and animated variations. One example opens into a 970×250 when the visitor first arrives on the site and shrinks to a 970×90 when the visitor clicks on a Close button.
Any advertiser with images that create a compelling and attractive visual is a good candidate for large branding ads.
Mixing Response and Branding
So a simple question should be part of any needs analysis with a client — should the banner ad campaign emphasize branding, response or some combination of both? It depends on the business and the need.
The success of the campaign depends in part on making the right choice.
Effective banner advertising isn’t just about the direct response rate. It also includes indirect response that comes from branding.