If you’ve browsed the Web for even a few minutes, you’ve probably seen your fair share of banner ads. These flashy marketing ploys have been on the Web since 1993, and if current figures are any indication, they’re out to conquer the online industry. But before you go around hiring designers, here’s another fact: it’s not that simple.
Effective banner ads use a combination of compelling copy, good design, and technical properties. To make them worth your time, money, and web space, they need to satisfy four main elements:
Banner ads limit you to a small space, just like a TV ad limits you to 30 seconds of airtime. Make good use of this space by choosing your words carefully. MSN’s Small Business Centre suggests keeping your message to seven words or less, which lets you play up visual elements like the font size, shadows, and color.
When you’re working with a 7-word limit, every word should say something. “Power words” are those that immediately catch a viewer’s eye, whether or not they like it. People simply can’t ignore words like “win,” “free,” and “money” (especially in that order, but that’s another story). Likewise, avoid weak words that don’t say anything, such as “dynamic,” “virtually,” and “worthwhile.”
Minimalism may be the order of the day, but it’s hard to make banner ads work without any imagery. Simply put, you need pictures in your ad. Some companies actually hire professional photographers just for this purpose. If you’re on a budget, royalty-free stock images are your best bet. Just make sure to keep a tab on the file size—too big and it’ll take forever to load.
Visual contrast is one of the easiest ways to grab one’s eye. That’s why black and yellow—a pair known for its high contrast—is the standard color for road signs. Play up the contrast in your banner ads by combining light and dark, smooth and rough, large and small.