Best practice: online display ads

Apr 3rd, 2017

Online display ads. Banner ads. I’m sure we’re all familiar with what these are; they are one of the principle forms of marketing on the web.

The overarching concept of a banner ad is simple: create an advertising unit for a specified space that encourages website users to view, interact or click through to the advertiser’s website and/or bespoke landing page for more information.

As with any form of advertising, the success comes down to the creative execution. We are bombarded with so much advertising each day, that banner ads can become lost as we scroll through websites.

Over the years, we’ve created a huge volume of online display ads for brands from Disney and Royal Caribbean, to banner ads to promote sporting events. The success of online display banner ads comes down to a few key ingredients. Here is a list of our tops tips, tried and tested:

Clear & simple messaging

Banner ads are relatively small in comparison to the sites they appear on, some are as little as only having 90 pixels in height! You’re not always going to have a lot of space to play with, so keeping messaging simple is key. Clear, concise messaging that is easy to consume is very important.

According to Google benchmark tools, the time an ad is visible for a user is decreasing, so we can’t waste time including the non-essential information.


April-November 2016


This one feels like a no-brainer, but great creative will help grab the user’s attention. The creative needs to reflect the brand, as well as the product or service that you are promoting. As mentioned above, we have so little time to grab attention that the creative should focus on the main point of the ad unit, helping you narrate a very clear visual story.

It’s very important to think about the space where your creative will be featured; one approach may not work across all online display formats, as they vary greatly in dimension. A portrait image may work in some cases and not in others. Similarly, if the creative is very detailed, you might lose some of that impact in smaller spaces.

Clear call to action

As with all advertising mediums, we are telling the user a story (a very short story!), there needs to be a clear call to action so the users understand where they will go on their onward journey if they click or interact with the ad unit.

Be mindful of what you are asking them to do. If the ads are only appearing on tablet devices, perhaps asking them to ‘click’ to expand, for example, should instead reflect the ‘tap’ on touch-screen devices.

Not too whizzy

This may seem to contradict with some of our points above, as we are trying to grab the user’s attention, but introducing lots of animation and effects could detract from the product or service that you are trying to promote. Make sure that any animation styles introduced into the online display units aid and support the messaging.

So, to recap – forget all the added extras you’d like to shoehorn in! Tell a clear and very short story with complementary creative, and give the user a compelling reason to click or interact with your online display ads.

Good at user research, digital strategy and singing unbelievably out of tune.