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The Beginner’s Guide to Designing Display Ads

Gemma Holloway

by Gemma Holloway on 14th March 2013

Listen To MeDisplay advertising campaigns can be excellent for building brand awareness, however, due to banner blindness users are becoming more sophisticated at filtering out the presence of this type of ad.  It is because of this that it is now more important than ever to design your display ads with the user in mind to grab their attention and ensure your ads do not go unnoticed.

In this blog post I am going to cover 5 simple tips to help you design the perfect display ad to ensure your ad gets noticed and delivers the message you require.  There are two types of display ad; image and video.  This blog post will predominately focus on image ads; however, the majority of these tips can be transferred across to video ads also.

Before making any design decisions it is important to consider what the goal of your ad campaign is.  Is it to increase brand awareness, to provoke interaction from the user or a completely different goal all together? The intent of your campaign will have a strong influence on the design of your ad and it is important you have this mind when making design decisions.

So without further ado… On to the tips:

1. Carefully Consider Colour

When considering the design of your display ad it is important to consider the colour scheme you want to use.  More often than not, companies will choose to go with their brand colours – standard! But is this really the most sensible choice?

In previous blog posts I have touched upon the influence of colour on emotion and how this can drive users to complete your Call to Action.  Therefore, you may want to consider a colour scheme which will influence your users by provoking a particular emotion.

Alternatively, a huge benefit with display ads is the ability to select which website your ads appear on.  This presents the opportunity to tackle banner blindness is a clever way by choosing a colour scheme which complements that of the placement website.  Not only does this make the ad nicer to look at (we all know clashing colours are displeasing to the eye) but it is possible to disguise the fact that your ad is in fact an ad at all.  This means users are less likely to skim straight over the ad in the way they are so used to doing, although you need to ensure this doesn’t breach Google’s terms of use.

SeomozAlthough yellow isn’t really a colour you’d associate with SEOmoz it’s been used to great effect to make this advert stand out.

Tip 1: Choose a colour scheme which complements the placement website and provokes the necessary emotion to drive a call to action.

2. Clear Call to Action

Buy NowThis leads nicely on to my next point.  As with everything online, to encourage a user to perform a desired behaviour it is important to have a clear call to action so that they are fully aware of what it is they are meant to do.

When determining your call to action is important to refer back to your campaign goals.  For example, if your campaign goal is user interaction you may wish to consider a bold ‘Click Here’ button.  This makes it glaringly obvious to the user they are supposed to click on the ad.

Brand awareness campaigns on the other hand may not require any interaction from the user meaning that no obvious Call to Action needs to be in place.  In this case the company logo and brand message would need to be the prominent features (See Tip 3).

With regards to videos, an ad may require two prominent calls to action.  A ‘click to play’ video, for example, would require a clear ‘Play’ button so that the user is fully aware they are meant to interact with the ad, and a final frame which displays the desired next step.

John lewis

John Lewis show prices on adverts and give you three separate buttons for “Shop now” which makes it clear which product you are purchasing.

Tip 2: Consider your campaign goals and determine a suitable call to action.

3. Important Information

Too often designers get caught up in the creative element of display advertising.  Whilst the capability of being able to custom design an ad is a huge benefit of display advertising, it is important to remember that without the appropriate information an ad is useless.

Again, the information displayed within your ad will depend on your overall campaign goal.  For example, a brand awareness campaign is likely to require a branded logo and clearly communicate the brand message.  Whereas a campaign aimed at driving product purchases is likely to require specific details about the product and the USP’s of the company selling it (e.g. Free Delivery, 50% Off).

Confused

Confused.com‘s adverts state the car you last searched for which helps make it clear the advert is for you, and they remind you of the prices so you can continue with a purchase.

Tip 3: Ensure you include all of the important information.

4. Imagery

One of the main differences between search and display advertising is the ability to incorporate images within your ads.  The saying goes ‘a picture speaks 1000 words’ which is exactly why it is so important to consider what, if any, imagery you include.

In some cases it may be blatantly obvious to a user what your company offers from your logo, therefore a brand awareness campaign may not consider any imagery at all.  However, in the majority of cases, companies will want to include some imagery within their ads.  It is important to consider; what emotions this imagery will provoke within users, whether it looks professional and if it is relevant to your ad.

Airbnb AdvertThis advert from airbnb perfectly combines colour with visually exciting images.

It is a common misconception that shocking or funny images work well.  Whilst this is the case in certain campaigns, it is important to ensure the imagery is appropriate to your target audience and your campaign goals.

Tip 4: Ensure the imagery you use is in line with your target audience and campaign goals.

5. White Space

White space doesn’t necessarily have to be white – it refers to a block of colour used to surround the feature aspects of an ad.  Regularly when creating a display ad, companies will attempt to deliver all the necessary information within a small area.  This can lead to the ad looking overcrowded and busy.

You don’t need to deliver an entire encyclopaedia about your company and services to ignite curiosity and drive the necessary outcome.  Overcomplicated design can look unattractive to users; therefore, white space can be used to simplify the layout of your display ad.

Karen MillenIn this example we can see how Karen Millen use white space to focus your attention on the products.

Tip 5: Carefully consider the layout of your display ad and make use of white space.

Bonus Tip – TEST!

As with all types of advertising, it is important to create variations of your display ads and test them against each other.  Research suggests that even slight changes to the colour of backgrounds and fonts can have a huge influence on the Click through Rate (CTR) of ads.  Therefore it is important to test variations against one another to see what works best for you, your brand and your campaign goals.

Still struggling for ideas? Then use the free tool at MOAT to see what adverts other brands have used!

That’s all folks..

Following these few simple tips should give you guidance of things to consider when going through the design process for your display ads.  Be sure to keep your campaign goals in mind at every step of the process and consider what impact each element will have on these goals.

I would be interested to know if you have any other tips which weren’t covered in this post. Please leave your little gems in the comments below.

Image Source

A lone person from BigStock

Gemma Holloway

Gemma Holloway

Gemma has amassed a broad range of marketing experience having worked in competitive sectors including leisure, computing and shipment. With a degree in Marketing with Psychology, she has enthusiasm for Digital Marketing and a strong understanding of user behaviour.

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