5 Rules For Creating Eye-Catching Display Ads

Posted by WhatRunsWhere on January 14, 2014
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banner ad tips

We all know images are far more successful at grabbing people’s attention than just text alone.  That’s why display advertising is so popular. However, most marketers don’t realize just how much a specific image can effect your click-through-rate (CTR).

Here are 5 rules that every display and mobile marketer needs to create eye-catching display ads…

1. Don’t Bother With Stock Photos

Here is the truth about stock photos: they are dull, boring and definitely do not catch much attention.  Never mind they were probably used a few hundred times by other sites.

The whole stock photo craze started due to a very limited supply of quality digital photos available online. The ability to purchase stock photos was seen as an easy way for online marketers to gain access to a huge variety of professional quality photos.

Don’t forget back in this ‘Stone Age’ there weren’t millions of photos being posted online every second. (Thanks camera phones and Instagram!)  These days we are numb to the boring images stock photo sites carry.  Instead, try using amateur photography to create an eye-catching ad.

(Note: Each of the ads used in this article are top performing ads found using our Top Ads feature.)

auto ad clear copyclear copy

2. Don’t Over Feature Your Logo

Don’t worry; once we click through to your landing page we’ll see your logo. There is no need to broadcast it in the ad.

Some think that using your logo as the main imagery for your display ads is good for branding. Although it may increase your brand recognition, it won’t do anything for CTR.

Brands that ditched the logo thumbnail in their ads saw a CTR increase of 27%!

Try creating display ads that include your logo, rather then feature it.

Zulily Display Ad  audible display ad

3. Crop To The Exact Dimensions

This is a very simply rule that is guaranteed to boost the impression of your ad.

Just like clothing, ads come in all different sizes. And just like clothing, you would never want to squeeze an XL ad into a XS ad space. It just looks wrong.


Before creating your ads be sure to get the correct size ratio of your ad space and tailor them exactly to that size.  If you need a filler, use a border with a contrasting bold color.

4. Go Easy On The Copy

You don’t need to give up all your details upfront. That’s what a landing page is for.  Display ads are meant to simply pull in viewers and entice them to click.

Use clear, easy to read, short copy. You have only seconds (if that) to make a compelling impression. Also, make sure the colors, font style and size that you use are very clear to read.

HINT: Read it out loud to be sure that it isn’t a mouthful.

See how powerful these ads read?

meet christians ad

shop at home ad

5. Add And Subtract

Always split-test different elements in each of your ads.

I know, I know, this article is supposed to be telling you what makes up a click worthy ad. The truth is that what works for one, may not always work for the other.

When you split test your ads, you may find that all your ads that use the word “Free” have the highest CTR, but all your ads that mention a lower price have a better conversion rate. You may discover that your target audience prefers green over blue.  The point is that you won’t know until you test it.

Recently when split testing our own ads, we noticed a 1% CTR increase just by adding a red boarder to the image. Nothing else in the ad was changed. Simply adding a red boarder to the image made it more noticeable and increased clicks.

Check out this infographic lending plenty of simple A/B split tests you can try with your ads…

Split testing display ads




Topics: Display Ads, Online Marketing, Optimization, PPC, Online Advertising, Strategy


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