Most display advertising is still purchased on a CPM basis –
you are buying a certain number of impressions. For that reason the higher
percentage of clicks you get on your ad impressions the more cost effective
your buying becomes. So ad creative is often the lynchpin to ROI. But it is
very hard to get clicks. Display ads have to be more compelling then the
content they’ve come to view.
If you are successful taking a viewer and turning them
into a clicker the landing page should then message to the visitors expressed
interest in the ad creative. This creates a flow. The two moments of recognition (the ad & landing) have incredible
influence over conversion. There are no better, more important or more valuable
three seconds in marketing. But it all starts with the ad.
1) Getting Noticed: Display’s
standardization and placement conventions are exactly what have made CTR drop
through the years. Users have literally been programmed to ignore the ad. The
fact that even to this day most landing pages suck and redirects provided
horrible UX hasn’t helped get more people clicking. If Search has to overcome
the Golden Triangle of user eye-tracking, Display has to overcome the Golden
There are basically four strategies to getting noticed. In
order of my preference based on performance:
The idea here is to make the ads look like content. This is done not to deceive
but due the fact that as mentioned people have built a scanning awareness to block
out display conventions. In the early days of Search the fact that the ads
looked like the results was a key factor in their performance (while that still
exists today to some regard the increased relevance of the ads override that
now). We’ve seen this practice work in print for years and it currently works online
with flogs. This is just proof of concept. I’m not
advocating spoofing but your ads stand a better chance of being noticed and
your messages read if they look like content and not ads.
My rule (that I stole a few years ago from RIA guru Bill Scott) for all rich media including banners is to only use it if it solves a content
delivery problem thus creating a better user experience. Rich media for the
sake of rich media is a huge waste of budget. I have no understanding for why
Flash is used so often. Animated
GIFs can sometimes be useful in getting your ad noticed but use it in a way
that doesn’t detract from the messaging or the looping breaks the content into
messaging that is difficult to make sense of.
Keep in mind the majority of sites your ad will run on have white backgrounds. Again,
as mentioned, using bold colors can people to ignore you as much as it can get
people to notice you. But big blocks of black and red can attract attention. As
in print advertising, reverse coloring (black background with white text) usually
does worse in comparison to standard dark on light in most tests.
Images can really help and really hurt so it’s important to be very careful. Our
brains process images much more quickly then text, though often the meaning
behind an image is not as clear to us as copy. We all have a natural tendency
to look at images of faces especially when they are looking at you. Images of
the actual product are often helpful. We also all know that Celebrity Endorsers
can be very helpful and it doesn’t necessarily have to be illegal.
2) Content Hierarchy:
Scanning habits make it important to keep your content in a format and font
that is easily scanned. This means have clear headlines, supporting bullet
points and calls to action. I often find that “brand” creative types think
these practices will not work but again but it’s clear from print that this can
be massaged in a way that doesn’t have to make headline >> copy >> call to action uniquely direct
3) Messaging: Foolish consistency
may be the hobgoblin of little minds but it is a key component in creating flow and converting clicks. For this
reason it’s important that the ads mirror the landing page in messaging and
look and feel. Recognition and reinforcement are very important strategies for
all facets of conversion optimization for the simple reason they breed confidence.
One of the interesting things I’ve witnessed over the years is the role
confidence plays in conversion. This might be best exemplified again by flogs
or farticles that prey upon localization, brand borrowing and newspaper style
layouts to create confidence. Again, I’m not advocating that your creative been
made to fool users however it’s clear that the strategies employed here can be
leveraged in more elegant and proper ways to improve results.
Many people don’t understand the impact ads have on conversion.
In many tests, including multivariate tests across elements of both the ads and
landing pages, the ad elements have the highest factor of influence on
conversion. It is after all the first impression. Make a good one.