A to Z of Effective Banner Advertisement Design

If you look for the word "Banner" in the dictionary, you'll see it can either be a flag, sign, or an ad. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about online banner ads, HTML5 ads or printed cloth banners: interactivity apart, the same core principles hold true for creating effective banners... and here they are, alphabetically organized from A to Z.

A to Z of Effective Banner Design

A to Z of Effective Banner Advertisement Design

At a Glance

Size and specifications notwithstanding, the contents of a banner should be organized so they can be perceived at a glance. It your viewer can’t get the message in a split second, they’ll just move past it without even a shadow of a thought.

The Economist Banner Outdoor
When you really succeed at brevity, they’ll get your meaning even if they keep walking

Benefit Oriented

This is an adage of marketing that very much applies to banner design; people respond to benefits… not features, not promises, nor anything else. All that people want to know is what’s in it for them, and that should be the gist of your banner concepts.

Call to Action

Just getting the attention of your target audience is not enough to get results. You have to engage them somehow, and usually that can be achieved with a clear statement of what you want them to do – in other words, a strong call to action.

First Internet Banner
According to BusinessInsider, this here is the first banner ad ever to grace the Internet, dating back as far as 1994. It allegedly received an overwhelming (and unrealistic by current standards) click through rate of 44%

Defiance

This is a great way to capture the attention of the viewer; defy their beliefs, their expectations, or even their preconception of the brand you represent. This is a great way to get a better shot of engagement.

Establish Brand

Using a banner purely to present a brand won’t be effective, but it’s important to somehow articulate/tie-in your message with the brand that’s behind it. This is especially true for off-line banners, where people can’t just click for a follow-up of the message; but even when it comes to web banners, a discrete mention of the brand can increase overall effectiveness.

In the example below, you may notice how the banner ad doesn’t actually link anywhere but still creates quite an impression.

Pringles

Fact Focused

The modern consumer is quite skilled at picking up on exaggerations, hollow promises, and white lies. That’s why you must stick to the facts (and present them enticingly), if you want a shot at earning the viewers’ trust.

Grab Attention

Common tactics include shock, surprise, ingenuity, or to simply be appealing to natural human curiosity. But if you want a banner to be successful, you must conceive it in a way that makes viewers want to interact with the banner itself or the brand it represents.

Humor

Whenever possible, you should try to include humor in your banner designs, or figure out ways to make them witty. This is a great way to lower the viewer’s “defenses” and get them involved in the message you’re looking to convey.

Intellectualisms

Unless you’re trying to appeal to strictly intellectual crowds, you should avoid these - because they will puzzle and alienate many viewers. Instead, you should focus on doing a clever presentation that will be easily understood by just about everyone.

Juicy Content

Effective banners cannot be vain; there must be something there to sparkle the attention of on-lookers, and that invariably boils down to presenting succinct but juicy content.

Keep it Simple

To arrive at successful banner designs, you should keep distilling your concepts to make them visually possible and conceptually rich.

Yellow Pages
No need to indulge in intellectualisms; simple presentation, a bit of humor, and there’s a witty and effective banner

Legibility

There are only so many words you can stuff in a banner design before it gets crowded. Avoid using complex fonts that people are unaccustomed to reading. A good way to test if a design is legible is to have someone look at it for just 1-2 seconds and ask if the person perceived the message.

Message Clarity

Always ask yourself “could I have conveyed the same idea in fewer words?” Try to either come up with a catchy headline that commands curiosity, or otherwise use text minimally and focus on graphic content.

Numbers

People love statistics of any kind and will often get curious when numbers are mentioned in combination with text and graphics. Including numbers in the copy can also be a simple way to achieve diversity in your elements and break through banner blindness.

Amnesty International - Numbers
The numbers don’t even need intrinsic meaning; it can be a contextual thing

Originality

Don’t assume that all good ideas have already been used; with the uprising of multi-media platforms, there are more and more ways to be original with your presentation.

Placement

A great banner will only be as effective as the context is right. When developing banner designs, you should also consider its placement; if possible, use it to further increase the coherence of the overall message.

Question Viewer Assumptions

We’ve already told you that you should always stick to the facts while addressing the viewer. But sometimes you can bend this rule by questioning their assumptions in a way that makes them wonder or somehow shocks their perception.

Pomegranate Juice
Maybe it’s not exactly the truth, but didn’t that get your attention?

Resourcefulness

Use all the tricks you know and adapt them to the specific media you’re working with. Think outside the box and find new ways to bridge the gap between your audience and your message.

Succinctness

The soul of all effective banners.

Transmit Confidence

Fooling possible clients into contacting you or clicking your ad is seldom a good approach; sneaky tricks may apparently raise the banner’s effectiveness, but they’ll cut tremendously on the prospects’ conversion rate. Commercial relationships are based on trust, and a good banner should be your first step towards establishing it.

Use Space Wisely

It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a tiny web banner or a humongous outdoor vinyl ad; its relative size (to the viewers’ distance) will always be tiny, so you must use that space as wisely as possible.

Value for Viewers

Regardless of the media you’re using, a great way to draw in potential customers is to offer something with perceived value. It doesn’t have to be anything tangible, though; it can be a piece of valuable information, a creative presentation… anything goes, just as long as onlookers don’t feel they’re wasting their time looking at your banner.

All You Can Eat
Could you possibly ignore something like that?

Words that Sell

Whenever possible, try to include words that sell in the copy you choose to include in a banner. Magical words include “Free”, “Click Here”, “Call us”, “Sign up”, and “You”; generally speaking, words that sell are words that entice action, address the viewer directly or offer clear benefits.

Xenial

It’s all about creating a bond with your audience. To achieve this, have your banner evoke a sense of hospitality and friendliness; give them something they can relate to and connect with.

You

Not You-You, but You-Them – the audience. They only care about themselves, and if you want to snag their attention you must get in their mindset. Articulating copy in the second person (You know it) generally prompts higher viewer engagement.

Zeitgeist

Address the spirit of your time. Create something that speaks to the hearts of your prospects; use their jargon, if possible. Stay on the cutting edge, and figure out ways to integrate the best practices with socio-cultural and technological developments.

Unhate - The United Colors of Benetton
There’s a picture that sparked so much more than a thousand words

Conclusion

Despite differences in size, platform or media, all banners have a similar purpose – to quickly and effectively convey a message to the rushing crowds. After reading through this article, you should have a better idea of what it takes to succeed at doing banner design. Armed with this knowledge, we hope you’ll feel inspired to create your most successful banner designs yet.

Always remember, none of these rules are set in stone. In fact, you may have noticed how some of the principles above actually contradict others, right?

The real value of understanding all the rules is figuring out a clever way to subvert them. Good banners can be created simply by complying with these best practices; amazing banners are created by understanding these principles and creatively defying the underlying logic.