What is banner advertising?

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Banner advertising is an essential and powerful stream of marketing; find out how to create an effective campaign with our up-to-date guide. 

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Banner ads are a powerful tool in advertising, offering perhaps the greatest exposure across all advertising mediums. Understanding what banner ads are, how to create effective banner ads, and why they’re effective is essential for any brand looking to elevate its marketing efforts.  

What is a banner ad? 

A banner ad, also known as a display ad, is an online advertisement that’s displayed on a website. Banner ads can be in either JPG, GIF, PNG, or HTML5 format. You’ll see banner ads on a wide variety of websites – and just about any website publisher is able to host them. In some cases, the businesses being advertised may be relevant to the onsite content, in others, it may be targeted at specific users, or in some cases, they’re almost completely random. 

Banner ads can be a significant source of income for publishers and a significant source of exposure for advertisers.  

How does banner advertising work? 

Awin facilitates the process of publishing and distributing ads online for both publishers and advertisers alike. Advertisers can use My Creative to manage and upload their banner marketing material, creating a database for publishers to find relevant content for their site. Some affiliates on the Awin network are also remarketers, so advertisers can connect with these affiliates to serve their content to users who have engaged online with the business before.   

Banner ads are placed in high-visibility areas of high-traffic websites. A banner ad is also a link; a user can click a banner ad and go to your homepage, a product page, landing page – or whatever you see fit for your conversion goals.  

Through the My Creative platform, publishers and affiliates are able to populate spaces on their websites to host ads. Publishers are provided with an HTML script that can be added to their website, and ads can then be added and automatically updated without the publisher needing to do anything. These are specific per retailer and can be chosen by size and format.  

Publishers can also search by content type, topic, advertiser and more, to connect with the best banner ads for their brand. They will then be paid a commission based on the number of conversions the ad generates.   

There are a few core pricing models for banner advertising: cost per mille (CPM) is the price per 1,000 impressions, cost per click (CPC) is the price per ad click, and cost per action (CPA) bases the price on specific conversions, like purchases or registrations. While it is possible to be paid on other metrics, CPA is typically used for affiliate networks like Awin. 

As an advertiser, the cost of getting a banner ad published can vary depending on the size, the market, the websites you’re looking to be featured on, and more.  

Awin’s commission flexibility options makes negotiating and implementing payment models between advertisers and publishers easy. 

What makes banner advertising effective?  

Banner ads are effective because, when done well, they’re simply hard to ignore. Oftentimes, a good banner ad will be the first thing your eyes are drawn to when you open a webpage. They’re similar to billboards, only digital.   

Banner advertising is most effective when trying to raise brand awareness. While they could be used to market to existing customers, particularly with remarketing distribution, banner ads typically perform best when the aim is to simply get new eyes on the business.   

You might also use banner advertising to create awareness around a special offer or sale. For instance, you could offer an exclusive discount for a product or a free trial for a service to those who click through. This works great with remarketing – the user has already shown some interest, so now you can close the deal by advertising a special offer directly to them.   

Banner blindness 

Visual content tends to perform well, and banner advertising works because our gaze is naturally drawn to imagery on a page of mostly text. Having said that, as banner ads have become more and more prevalent, many of us have become so accustomed to them that they become easier to ignore. This is known as "banner blindness."

It’s not too dissimilar from traditional advertising. When you’re bombarded with ads everywhere you turn, they can simply blend into the background. The same goes for TV advertising. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re conditioned to tune out once the commercials begin, and only the most compelling content will reel us back in. In order to make sure you really stand out, you’ve got to make sure you have a truly captivating visual. 

Banner advertising best practices 

The ultimate goal is to persuade users to click on your ad, generating traffic to your website. In order to do so, you have to ensure your ad is eye-catching, unique, and enticing.  

Choosing the right size 

You may assume that the bigger the banner ad, the better its chances of generating impressions, but this isn’t necessarily the case. A banner ad that’s so big it becomes obtrusive might garner a negative reception and feel spammy, and larger banner ads are less likely to be placed on more well-known, trusted websites. 

Below are the standard sizes for banner ads: 

Standard Formats: 

  • Banner (468x60) 
  • Leaderboard (728x90) 
  • Medium Rectangle (300x250) 
  • Wide Skyscraper (160x600) 
  • Skyscraper (120x600) 
  • Small Square (200x200) 
  • Square (250x250) 
  • Half Page (300x600) 

Mobile Formats: 

  • Smartphone Wide Banner (320x50) 
  • Smartphone Static Banner (300x50) 
  • Medium Rectangle (300x250) 
  • Smartphone Large Banner (320x100) 
  • Feature Phone Small Banner (120x20) 
  • Feature Phone Medium Banner (168x28) 
  • Feature Phone Large Banner (216x36) 

While banner ads can come in a variety of sizes, you’ll likely have the most luck focusing on Medium Rectangle, Large Rectangle, Leaderboard, Half Page, and Mobile Leaderboard banner ads. These are most common, and most likely to be successful.  

If you’re new to banner advertising, it’s best to start with a medium rectangle and test the waters before venturing towards larger ads. Large rectangles give you more space to work with, while still being compact enough to be placed within the body text of the webpage. Leaderboard banner ads get great exposure, being placed along the top of a page. Half-page ads are among the largest, without being overly obtrusive, offering plenty of space to drive forward your message. Mobile is of course hugely important, and Mobile Leaderboards gain the most impressions.

Designing your banner ad 

Including a clear call to action (CTA) in your display ads is a must. Whether it’s something like "Find Out More," "Shop Sale," "Save Now," "Get Exclusive Offer" – whatever you go for, a CTA can help guide a user towards conversion. 

Choose your link wisely. If you’re looking to raise brand awareness, you might link to your homepage or a blog. If you’re looking for sales, link directly to the product page. If it’s lead generation, link to a landing page where users can get a free trial or exclusive offer.  

Use the AIDA marketing model to guide your design approach. AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action; aim for your display ad to achieve each of these points.  Grab attention through your choice of color, typeface, aesthetic, format, and structure. Gain interest with a bold statement that expresses the ultimate message of your product or campaign. Encourage desire through sub-copy and imagery that sells the KPIs of the product, using a style and tone of voice that speaks directly to your audience’s needs. Then, inspire action with a CTA.  

Considerations for publishers 

If you’re a publisher, you don’t want to irritate your audience with huge ads that distract too much from your content. While you may earn more from having more, larger banner ads, you need to be careful not to damage your reputation by going overboard. Always keep user experience in mind and make sure your banner ad placement benefits all parties – you, the advertiser, and the user.  

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