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Who Actually Clicks on Banner Ads?

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Banner ads are the most ubiquitous form of marketing on the Internet. Since the days of Geocities and MySpace, banner ads have peppered the World Wide Web, advertising everything from free iPads to flash sales.  Recently, the proliferation of behavior based marketing tactics in web advertising means that the banner ads that are popping up are creepily accurate representations of your browser history. As if we really need to be reminded of our late night flash sale shopping binges in the harsh light of day.

Banner blindness – A real threat to your clicks
Because of their abundance, banner ads are, more often than not, ignored. The reasons include lack of relevance to the viewer, fear of spam, a virus, popups, or some other unexpected reaction, and general lack of engaging content.

In one AdKeeper survey, 43% of respondents said online banner ads don’t seem interesting or engaging and 31% of respondents said they only wanted to click ads when they were in the mood or interested in looking at them. There is no doubt that banner ads are a difficult medium for advertisers to execute successfully, but they can be very effective if certain principles are followed.

After exploring countless pages worth of banner ads, and mercilessly subjecting my browser to a Chips Ahoy factory worth of cookies, I’ve come up with some things to keep in mind when designing a banner ad to ensure that it is clicked instead of ignored.

Keep copy simple and un-clutter your visuals
In a space where flat design is becoming more and more prevalent, loud banner ads are jarring and unappealing to users. Forgoing flashing, gifs, and a rainbow of colors for simple copy and an uncluttered image can mean the difference between a passing glance and an inquisitive eye.

In the L.L. Bean ad below, the product is unobstructed in the center of the image and the bold white copy at the top clearly lets the viewer know what they will get when they click ahead. The ad fits well within L.L. Bean’s brand image, further lowering the risk of viewer confusion or aversion. At the bottom of the image, there’s a very bright call to action so that the user knows how to engage with the content and benefit from the deal being advertised.