Display Ad Design Tips For Maximum ROI

Andres Levinton
Director of Growth Marketing
Published31 Jan, 2022
Display Ad Design Tips For Maximum ROI - Superside

Display ads, most commonly delivered through Google’s Display Network, are a divisive topic among marketers. Some marketers are ready to do away with display ads, while others have seen major success with them. So what do we recommend? As with most advice, it depends on your product and how you use the channel.

We won’t go into too much detail about how display ads are served, but we will stress a few key points to help you approach display ads if you’re curious about adding them to your advertising mix. Regardless of what product or service you may be looking to market, by the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of:

What are Display Ads?

Display ads are banner images that show up or display when you’re consuming content on an external website. They’re the ones you typically see at the top or side of a webpage or app.

These can be basic banners with a combination of text and images or more dynamic rich media ads which incorporate audio, video and animation. But unlike Google search ads, they aren’t attached to direct intent to buy or inform. It is a visual ad that is placed on websites where your target audience frequents.

Are Display Ads Effective?

There are a variety of types of display ads such as Google display ads, native ads and video ads which can be used for different reasons, however it really depends on your goals to determine if display advertising will be effective or not for your our your brand.

According to Hootsuite research, close to half (42.7%) of internet users use ad blockers that render most types of display ads invisible. Plus, since display ads are one of the oldest and most common digital advertising types, most consumers don’t notice or engage with them much anymore. According to Instapage, the average American sees about 63 display ads per day but click-through rates for banner ads average around 0.1%, a lower total than many other forms of online advertising.

These ads still come with plenty of benefits however. One of the biggest pros of using display ads is brand awareness. Since they can appear on most consumer-forward sites, they allow you to put your brand in front of thousands (or millions) of consumers while they browse, share and consume content online. Also, similar to social media ads, you can set up display campaigns which retarget ads to customers who have visited your website and abandoned it without buying, encouraging them to return.

Read our blog post on what makes an effective ad to learn more. The article includes an Ad Framework and Design Checklist to help you improve your ads.

How to Approach Display Ad Design

Most users navigate websites and landing pages with the expectation that they’ll encounter display ads. That’s why your design will need to stand out if you want them to perform.

Here are four key points that will set you up for success with display ads:

1. Don’t rely on display ads to produce a high number of quality customers. Rely on them to reinforce your brand instead

Display banner ads see some of the lowest CTRs in digital marketing, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless. Let’s say you operate within an increasingly competitive space, like website CRMs. You may be competing with products that are so similar to yours that audiences have difficulty differentiating between your solution and the next one over.

In that case, you may want to use display as part of an omnichannel approach to keep your brand top of mind for consumers. They may not click on the ad, but if they see your ad enough times, you may be the first solution they think about when it’s time to make a buying decision.

2. Prioritize display remarketing over other types

Within the Google Display Network, at least, you have the option to target colder audiences based on demographics or interests. We recommend deprioritizing these targeting measures and shifting your display ad budget to remarketing efforts.

Display remarketing targets people who have visited your website, so they’re already familiar with your brand. When paired with an offer, like HelloFresh’s display ad example below, you’re more likely to see a higher CTR on the ad because you’re targeting people with at least some buying intent.

3. Responsive ads may not be enough to capture attention

Google’s responsive ad solution addresses the problem of size and scalability. There are almost 20 standard banner sizes on the ad network, and design teams had to re-size the same ad for each format for every new campaign.

As an alternative, Google introduced responsive ads. With responsive ads, marketers need only feed Google with a few standard images and headlines, and the ad network takes care of the rest. But what you gain in scale, you may sacrifice on creativity. You may want to test different creative for different sizes, and a standard image may not be the best visual to represent your brand. If you want to stand out, consider a b testing your ad designs or try out testing animation vs. a static image.

4. Display ads are cheaper than search ads, but you can bank on lower CTRs.

Google ads have an average CTR of 1.55%, whereas display advertising see CTRs of about 0.47% (see below for additional benchmarks). But the average cost per click (CPC) for a display ad is $0.31, compared to $1.28 for search ads. No one is arguing that display ads are more effective than search ads. But if you have a sizeable remarketing pool to play with, display ads are a cheaper option that is at least worth testing for your brand.

This posts is only one part of a much larger ad design guide, which covers topics like Facebook advertising, ad design types, predictions and more. Don’t miss out and download the guide today

Display Ad Design Tips

More than any other digital channel, display is often the most ignored among audiences. Display ads are the oldest form of digital advertising, and people are desensitized to them. They are also some of the least disruptive ads, meaning you can work around them to consume the content on a page.

Knowing this, you’ll need some spectacular creative assets to encourage audiences to pay attention to your display ads. Here are some tips to stand out against the noise.

1. Bright colors and contrast are your friends

Don’t try to be subtle. Don’t aim for understated elegance. While muted color palettes and flat icons may work on other channels, display ads require more of a bang.

This beautiful set of display ads by Mailchimp uses bright, banana yellow to pull you in, then uses further color contrast to demonstrate their value proposition. Their CTA button stands out on all formats, while the yellow background acts as a hook for smaller ad formats that can’t support their supporting visual. Color and contrast cover the ad on all fronts.

Tip: Check with each publisher to ensure you're following their creative rules. Each platform will have its own set of guidelines for elements like copy, color and imagery. For example, display ads on Amazon need to comply with their Chroma Policy, which bans the use of bright colors as a solid background. You can take a peek at their creative acceptance policies here.

2. Remove as many non-essential elements as possible, but keep your logo

Remember: display ads are a solid mechanism for ensuring your brand stays top of mind. It may not be advisable to slap your logo on every digital ad, but display ads are where your logo should shine.

But when you include your logo, that means you need to think sparingly about all other design elements in your ad. If you can demonstrate your value prop with a clear image instead of text, go for it. But if you have a strong statement meant to pull an audience in, you may not need a ton of imagery at all.

Check out this side-by-side example by DocuSign. The ad consists of three components: a compelling headline promising tangible value, CTA and logo. And sometimes, that’s all you need to get the job done.

3. You often need an offer to get clicks

Nothing incentivizes people to click more than a discount or offer. If you’re remarketing to warmer audiences who are familiar with your brand, an offer may be the one thing that entices them to click on your display ad.

Bonus points if your offer coincides with seasonality. This display ad by Intuit during tax season drew attention with its steep discount offer to address the pain point of doing your taxes.

Display Ad Benchmarks

Wondering if your display ads are on track? Here are some standard benchmarks, according to HubSpot’s latest analysis from Q1 2020.

  • CPC: $0.31
  • CPM: $1.53
  • CTR: 0.47%

The Key to Effective Display Ads?

The key to display advertising is understanding the role these types of ads play in your digital advertising plan.

Finding success with display ads ultimately comes down to keeping your expectations in check. While a potential customer may not click on your ad and immediately convert, they’re still a great way to get your brand in front of the right people and show them what you have to offer. Plus, their low cost means you can cast a wide net and get a lot of eyeballs on your offer.

Ultimately, having great ad design will lead to more effective display ads. Once you understand where display advertising fits in your marketing mix, you can follow the targeting, messaging, and creative design tips in this post to help you make the most of this digital advertising tactic. And if you want some display ad design best practices or see more display ad examples, you can download our complete Ad Design Guide.

Andres Levinton
Andres LevintonDirector of Growth Marketing
Andres Levinton is the Director of Growth Marketing at Superside. Besides advocating for quality design at scale, he spends his time playing bossa-nova, searching for waves and cooking Argentinean asados.
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