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This is the latest in our Vantage Points series. On a semi-weekly basis, it will tap the perspectives of various lookout points from around the local media and tech sectors. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect that of BIA/Kelsey. Please contact mbolandATbiakelsey if you have insights to share. 

Techniques for Successful Banner Ad Campaigns

By Tim Reynolds


I created my first “banner ad” around 1998. I was working at a TV station in Providence, RI. We had recently launched a website for the station, and I had one ad space available on every page.

So I fired up PowerPoint and created a two-color rectangle to fit that space and promote our newscast live stream (that is a story for another time – remember this was 1998 and was powering our stream, before Mark Cuban sold it to Yahoo, and in the time of 300 baud modems). I don’t even think the ad linked anywhere… there was very few places to go back then. We certainly didn’t sell it to local clients.

Now it’s 2015, and I’m consulting with a digital ad company working with local publishers – print, TV, and radio. My role is training local account executives how to put together effective local digital campaigns. I review their digital orders coming in, and then a few weeks later see the cancellations because “It didn’t work.” Hence this very basic primer on techniques for successful banner ad campaigns. It might not even be 101 level, but I’m sensing a need out there.

1) Have a clear, concise call to action. If your client is going to judge you on click through rate (CTR), try to make it idiot proof. It can be a bit more sophisticated than “Click Here!” but sometimes it doesn’t have to be. State a benefit: “Get today’s rates”, or “10% off coupon here”, or the ever popular “Get More Details”. Ask a question that people want answered; “What do the colors of roses mean?” CTR is not supposed to be the goal of a marketing campaign, but sometimes it is.

2) Basic design of the ad matters. Quite a few ads I see look like re-purposed print ads. Space is at a premium. (especially with mobile ads) Does the client’s brick and mortar address need to be in the ad, or could it be on the landing page? Does the phone number need to be in the ad itself, or could it be morphed into a click-to-call ad? How many words of text are needed to create the desired action? You get the idea. I like this blog post from a design firm with more specific ideas.

3) Pay attention to the target URL, and why it’s the target. A great percentage of the ad insertion orders I see have the destination of the banner ad simply being the client’s home page. That is lazy. Think it through – what is the expectation based on the ad creative? If the ad copy is “Click Here to Book an appointment”, then make sure the destination URL is leading to the client’s appointment page. If it is a furniture store ad promoting Sealy co-op, then have the ad click through to the furniture store’s Sealy product page. A minute of “click through role playing” will lead to increased sales results. The majority of local client’s home pages are confusing messes. Help the effectiveness of the campaign by making sure a potential customer lands on the right page easily.

4) Think about a landing page. Related to the previous point, a simple one page website that is solely the destination for the banner ad. It could contain a printable coupon. It could simply be a map with directions to the client’s location and phone number (similar to a traditional Yellow Page Ad back in the day.) It might expand in detail the offer that was hinted at in the banner ad. (Terms and conditions, sale prices, promotions, etc.) It is a very easy process in most CMS’ to build out a single page unrelated to the main site’s content. By offering to build one for your client, you will stand out as a great rep who cares about their campaign’s success to the level of creating a small site just for them. If your station or paper can’t do it, sign up for a free web design company like Wix or Weebly and do it yourself. Your client will appreciate the effort, and you will get the renewal.

5) Mobile optimized is everything. If the campaign had mobile banner ad sizes – make sure the client’s webpage is mobile-optimized. It’s easy to check here. Or do it old-school and try the client’s site from your own phone. If it looks awful on your phone, or the navigation doesn’t work properly – don’t run mobile ads! Suggest to the client that they talk to their web design firm about upgrading their site. They probably already know if it’s not mobile-friendly, so this will give them one more reason to make things right. Mobile is beyond the fad phase now.

6) Lastly, measure the right things. Agree with your client on how to measure the results of a successful campaign. Be conservative, and work out the ROI, if applicable to the campaign. Some clients have unrealistic expectations about digital ad campaigns. The secret to renewals in digital is having the client believe that it worked and it was a good investment over other types of media. It might be a CTR of .08%, 50 new sign-ups for their e-mail newsletter, 75 new likes on Facebook, a 15 percent increase in website traffic, or 100 entries to win the vacation. There are many ways to measure success – pick one or two and be judged on that.

Please comment with suggestions — this was not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but a simple starting point.

1d88a76Tim Reynolds is a 15-year digital media expert.  He has  participated in the growth of the digital media as far back as the early days of Quantum Link. Today he is a published thought leader who speaks at major media conferences on trends and successes with digital revenue.   

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