Do banner ads work? This is a question that we are often asked by our clients. The answer is yes.

According to an eMarketer survey (January 2017), small businesses ranked display ads as the third most effective marketing tool, behind social media and their company website. What is even more interesting, is this percentage increased by 400% between 2014 and 2017 (from 4% in 2014 to 18% in 2017).

So how do banner ads work best?

I’ve been in countless meetings where everyone in the room says, “I don’t click on banners”. Click through rate (CTR) is just one measurement and in this case, probably among the least important. We know that people do click on banners. And even if they don’t click, with cookies, we’ve seen them take the desired action after seeing the banner, a view through action.

The truth is, clicking or not, banner ads are an effective medium. Here’s how to do it.

  • Define your success metrics
    • Understanding conversions on your site is a better gauge of what’s working than the front-end CTR. We’ve worked with partners that have low CTRs but have high conversion rates. So make sure you have a KPI beyond CTR to gauge success.
  • Target, target, target
    • Gather first party data and use partners that offer strong first and third party data collection to make sure you’re reaching your desired audience.
    • Make sure you’re using editorially relevant and contextually relevant targeting parameters.
  • Simplify your creative
    • I like to think of them as outdoor boards. At the very least they help in brand awareness and reinforcement.   Need proof? Studies have shown a lift in organic search results attributable to a display advertising campaign.
    • Creative should be clean, simple and to the point. We only have a few seconds to make an impression. This white paper from Google offers some great guidelines on making a great first impression with your creative.
    • Unlike outdoor boards, we have the opportunity to place them in contextually and editorially relevant environments which leads to a higher potential engagement rate. With first and third party data, we’re able to hyper target to find our audience. Tools like retargeting helps you stay top of mind to people who have previously visited your site. We also have the opportunity to use a variety of creative tactics and test a variety of messages within banners, rich media/video, to create a compelling impression. But a simple static message can also work, depending on how much you need to communicate.

To summarize how to make a banner ad campaign work best:

  • Define your success metric(s), ideally an action on your website
  • Use as many targeting parameters as possible for your digital buy
  • Simplify your creative
  • Customize your messages to the targets and sub-targets
  • Test multiple messages and executions to constantly measure performance

In our experience, if you employ these recommendations, you’ll find that banner ads can be a highly effective part of your digital media plan.