8 Steps to Creating Online Display Ads That Work

Online display advertising continues to grow at a rapid pace. By 2017, Forrester Research anticipates that the online advertising market will reach $28 billion, with 17% annual average growth over the next five years. Online display advertising is growing because it’s working. It offers a unique combination of reach and targeting. Online display has extensive reach, because it enables marketers to serve ads to a select audience no matter where that audience travels on the Web. And it offers precise targeting, because of the availability of data on Internet users.

Here are eight steps to creating banner ads that deliver ROI.

1. Determine your objective — branding, nurturing or driving sales — and target your audience no matter where they are in the marketing funnel.

Online advertising is a versatile advertising medium and can have an impact at any point in the funnel, reaching prospects, leads, current customers, and it is most effective when doing all three at the same time. For example, online advertising’s flexibility enables you to:

  • Brand and build awareness to reach new prospects.
  • Nurture prospects already in the funnel.
  • Drive sales with special discounts aimed at customers already in your CRM system.
  • Offer a full funnel approach by doing all three simultaneously.

2. Create different ads and different calls to action based on where your prospects are in the marketing funnel. 

Online display advertising is all about building brand familiarity with your target audience to ultimately move prospects down your marketing funnel.  For high-level branding campaigns, this may be as simple as encouraging prospects to visit your website. For mid-funnel targets, the ad could offer a white paper in exchange for the target’s contact information. For prospects near the bottom of the funnel, the offer might be a discount promotion on a specific product.

3. The best online display creative relies on a single image, a provocative headline and brief copy.

The most effective display ads focus on a concise message and have a clear call to action. Strong banners use a single, attractive image, a compelling headline, and very short copy – the fewer words the better – to drive the target audience to take a specific action, such as visiting a landing page, downloading a white paper or ordering a discounted product. The pictured Domo ad provides an almost perfect example of a display ad.

4. Consider using rich media to attract your audience.

When developing the creative, consider online banners that feature Flash, rich media, pre-roll video or video-in-banner. Research shows that rich media and video banners attract more eyeballs than static banners.  A recent study from AdForm, for instance, indicated that users were three times more likely to click on rich media ads than traditional banners.

5. Integrate your banner with other marketing efforts.

Additionally, marketing professionals encourage integration of banners with other marketing efforts, such as print advertising. But these marketing pros also counsel against simply converting the print ad to banner format. Online display is a specialized medium and can often require its own creative approach – as opposed to shoehorning a print approach into a banner.

Beyond the creation of the banner, a landing page that delivers on the promise of that banner is essential. For instance, if you’re offering a white paper in the banner, make sure that white paper is easy to find and downloadable on the landing page.

6. When measuring ad impact, incorporate metrics beyond clickthroughs.

Choosing the proper metrics is essential to gauge if your online campaign was effective or not. The metric most associated with online banners is the clickthrough, or CTR, which can provide, in broad strokes, a general idea of how well a particular banner is performing. But most marketers and agency professionals look to other metrics, such as cost per conversion or cost per lead, to measure the performance of a banner campaign. Many marketing professionals consider conversions  — for example, prospects downloading a white paper and providing their contact information to do so – is often a better indicator of how a campaign if performing.

7. Optimize your campaign by testing and by investing in the most effective ads.

Marketing professionals recommend developing several creative approaches and many different offers, so that you can test the most effective creative and optimize the campaign for maximum performance. A simple optimization process is using basic A/B testing to see which creative or which offers perform best.

You should also analyze the campaign to see which websites are delivering the best engagement. And you can also analyze at when the campaign is working best. For example, some campaigns perform better in the middle of the week, while others – in markets where workers have limited access to the Web during the day – may perform better in the evenings or early mornings.

8. Consider retargeting, CRM targeting and company name targeting

Once a viewer has engaged with your online advertising in some way you can “retarget” them based on their interaction. Typically, a prospect is “retargeted” with very specific creative that takes into account their previous interaction with your brand. For instance, if viewers visit a specific product page, they may be served an ad offering a discount on that particular product.

Other more precise targeting options include CRM targeting, where ads can be directed to prospects in your database of they visit various websites. Additionally, company name targeting can serve ads only to those viewers from a particular company or industry.

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