Banner Ad Design: Build a Brand or Drive Conversions?

So, you are creating some new banner ads in order to increase traffic to your website. You may be setting up your new banner ad campaign as a remarketing campaign or just a standard “spray and pray” campaign targeting everybody. Similarly, it could be set up as pay-per-click or as pay-per-impression. Regardless of these decisions, you will have to at some point face the question of the creative design of the ads themselves. In other words: what are your banner ads going to look like?

Whether or not you personally are the artist who will create your ads, before the design process even starts you need to ask yourself a fundamental question: what do I want my ads to achieve?

There are two primary goals you can accomplish with your banner ads: either to build your brand or to drive traffic to your website. However, unless you are a Fortune 500 company, you probably do not have the budget to spend on just building general brand awareness. The return on investment for building general awareness in the marketplace for your band usually fairly low. It’s probably not even worth doing for most companies.

That leaves you with the other reasonable goal of executing a banner ad campaign: to drive traffic to your website. In other words, you want people to click on your banner ads, visit your website and, hopefully, to take an additional action like making a purchase or contacting you about your services.

Even with this clear goal in mind, this point is precisely where many interactive marketing managers and designers alike can get tripped up a bit. Here’s the mistake they often make: they try too hard to make the banner ad look like their website.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with keep a consistent look and feel between your banner ads and your website. The trouble with trying too hard to do so, however, is that you risk taking your eye off the ball. In this case, that is: you want your banner ads to drive action. This is worth repeating, in all caps:

YOUR BANNER ADS SHOULD BE DESIGNED TO DRIVE ACTION.

If you have the choice between trying to make your banner ads look like your website or to drive action, by all means, choose the latter. Remember, once your prospects visit your website, you will have every opportunity to stun (or seduce) them with your brand message and look. But, if your ad doesn’t drive behavior, then the chance to tell your story will never even present itself.

Your banner ads should be designed to grab attention, call out whom you are targeting, explain the value you provide, and – most importantly – get them to click through to your website. All other design concerns should be secondary, at best.