Designing Successful Image Ads

Image ads are not dead, no matter how successful text ads may be.

What is a good image ad?

A good banner is one that works, no matter what it looks like. Now what I mean by “working?” Most ads on the internet have only one task – generating a click. If an ad has an over average CTR (click through rate)it is considered to be a good one.

Basic rules for designing a good image ad

Know where your ad will be placed:  If you want to create a good banner you ought to know where the banner will be displayed. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you’re on automatic placement on AdWords then your banners will be displayed on a number of different sites around the internet. The problem is you don’t know which ones. You know nothing. Of course, you can look at the reports later on and find out, but it’s not really helpful at this point, is it?

So examine the soon-to-be placement of your banner whenever you have the possibility. Look around and take some notes. For example. How many ads are there already? What sections of the site do they appear in? Are there many text ads? What is the style of other banners? Do they try to blend in or stand out? What does your placement look like? What is it surrounded by? The more intel you get the better. It’ll come useful when you start creating the banner.

Good copy sells. I know that it’s a banner not a text ad, but you still have to use good copy. This is not the place for a copywriting tutorial, so let me just give you a handful of tips.

The headline holds 80% of your success. If you get the headline wrong nothing else matters. Devote at least half of your copywriting time to working on the headline. Get some inspiration from headlines that are already successful. Use them as a template.

Answer one, two, or all of the questions a viewer might have.

“What? Why? How? What’s in it for me?”

Each of those questions is equally important. People want to know what you are offering, why you’re doing this, how to get it, and why they should care (what’s in it for them). Answer those and you’re going to be just fine.

Call to action. Probably the most important thing. Don’t forget to provide some kind of call to action. Even something as simple as a “click here” button, or a “get your free gift here” button. If you want them to do something tell them what it is.

Convincing graphics. By convincing I mean something that brings some specific information along with the graphic. Not just something that looks nice. The kind of information that’s useful to the target audience. Something they will notice, and then act upon.

Let me give you an example. If you’re creating a banner for an online lingerie store you will probably use some images of semi-naked women just to get attention (just a side note – semi-naked women work equally good in terms of attracting attention both for male and female eyes). That is fine. But it’s better to show the names of the products those women are wearing and the prices as well. That way the whole project is both pleasant on the eye and informative.

Readable font. You would be amazed how many banners use fonts that are totally unreadable. And I’m not just talking about the font itself. I’m taking about the style as well. Poor contrast, blurry letters, letters to small, too big, and so on.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb. Once you’re done with your banner show it to your grandma and ask her to read it out loud. If she struggles to do so, change the font. As simple as this. Grandma-proof your banner!

Appropriate colors. Different colors mean different things in different cultures.

A frame. Just a thin line around your banner can improve its attention grabbing potential. Why? We’re used to seeing frames in real life (e.g. paintings, pictures). Therefore a frame has a subconscious effect on our perception. We simply focus more attention on the thing that’s inside the frame.

Image Ad Blindness

One thing you will need to account for is the fact that we have become numb to image ads.

Design a banner that’s a purple cow (Seth Godin style). It has to stand out among all the other things that are displayed on the page. It has to be the most visible thing there. Something that is just impossible to be overlooked. Something like a purple cow in the middle of the room.


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