- Why everyone who says “banner ads are dead” is wrong.
- How the next generation of display ads will behave like mini web apps.
- HTML5 and how it’s going to change the way display ads look and act.
Harbour City Homes is a Sydney, Australia based home builder. They made some really nice carousel ads. Couple of nice aspects about these ads:
- They created all three sizes. Why is this important? Because it will give Harbour City Homes the greatest possible exposure. If you only create a 300×250, you won’t be able to advertise in 160×600 or 728×90 ad spots, and therefore you’ll only reach a limited audience.
- Bright, professional photography that stands out against the light grey background.
- These ads have a tight color scheme. There’s a nice match between the blue sky in the photo and the blue in the logo. And then the darker grey in the logo works well with the light grey banner background. Overall, it’s very simple, bright, and high-contrast.
Note that the 728×90 has been scaled down to fit the 600px width of our blog.
- Strong photography…the food looks delicious!
- The color scheme matches the white-on-black design of Gobble.com
- Gobble used a clean PNG version of their logo (with a transparent background)
Creating different variants of your banners
In a display ad campaign, it’s important to test different variations of your ads to find out what people are most likely to respond to (often called “A/B testing” or “creative optimization”). You can test things like:
- Text (known in the ad world as “copy”)
- Colors (we have a whole blog post on this topic)
- Imagery (check out our Getty Images demo…it automatically selects 8 different images for your ad)
Gobble is being smart and testing slight variations on their message. Check out their banners and spot the differences:
Note that the 728×90 has been scaled down to fit the 600px width of our blog.
View original 728×90 template »
“We’re all impressed with how easy it is to make different ads on the fly through your service. Keep up the great work!”
This is a guest post from our friends at AdMedia.
Fact: colors affect buying behavior
Check out this infographic which may be a bit of an oldie, but certainly still is a goodie. Created by KISSmetrics, it illustrates how different colors affect consumers. Apparently, “85% of shoppers place color as a primary reason for why they buy a particular product,” which means that the hues that you pick for your ads could actually make or break your campaigns.
So what do all these colors mean, exactly?
Choosing the colors for your ads will obviously depend on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. KISSmetrics’ infographic details the different meanings that people associate with certain colors. It’s important to note though, that the connotations below only apply to North American consumers. If you’re trying to sell something to say, an Indian or Asian, colors could take on entirely different meanings.
Let’s start with the color blue. If you’ve ever wondered why a lot of financial institutions (including Chase, American Express, and Bank of America) use blue in their logos and ads, it’s primarily because blue denotes trust and security, and is very popular with banks and businesses. Notice how American Express chose the color blue for its Small Business Saturday campaign? This is probably the reason why.
Does this make you think of something blue?
Meanwhile, if you’re selling luxury goods and wish to attract high-end consumers, black would be a good way to go because it primarily denotes power and sleekness. Take a leaf off the ads of these luxury products below and use a little darkness (in a good way, of course) to class up your ad campaign.
You have not heard All Things Considered until you’ve heard it through diamond-encrusted headphones.
Pink would often be the first choice of color if you’re advertising to women, mainly because it represents femininity and romance. A less obvious choice though, is purple, as it’s been found to have a soothing and calming effect and is effective in selling beauty or anti-aging products.
And if the subtlety of their branding isn’t coming through, Victoria’s Secret just went ahead and created a whole product line called Pink.
RED, NAVY BLUE, or TEAL
Are you having a sale and want to target bargain hunters or consumers on a budget? Then consider the colors red, navy blue, or teal. Red, being the brightest color of them all, “increases heart rate and creates urgency,” while the latter two have been found to attract shoppers on a budget and are looking for sales. (Speaking of sales, here’s a bonus tip: Use the power of words to your advantage. According to KISSmetrics, “52% of consumers are more likely to enter a store if there is a sale sign in the window.”)
Check out the ad by Target below. While the retail giant effectively uses multiple colors in the ad, they still managed to make the shades of teal and navy blue stand out. Additionally, notice how the words “sale $8 to $14″ are colored red.
YELLOW and ORANGE
Yellow and Orange on the other hand, are great for grabbing attention and giving shoppers that extra push to take action. Yellow expresses optimism and youth, and is said to be great at catching the eyes of window shoppers, while Orange denotes aggressiveness and “creates call to action” (e.g., subscribe, buy, or sell).
This is a guest post by Francesca StaAna. Francesca StaAna is from AdMedia, an online advertising network that connects advertisers to consumers through a number of innovative products including ad remarketing, affiliate programs, pay per click advertising, and more.
Canned Banners recently had the privilege of lending our expertise to this new online course from Knowledge.ly: Media Buying Academy
It’s a pretty comprehensive course, with enough material to get any noob affiliate or direct-response marketer off the ground and on their way to running profitable display ad campaigns.
These are the course modules:
- Module 1: Intro & Planning
- Module 2: Media Buying
- Module 3: Banner Design & Buy Negotiation
- Module 4: Landing Page Anatomy and Optimization
- Bonus Module: Retargeting In Your Media Buys
Full course details »
The course is full of these kinds of nuggets.
Buy the whole thing, and you’ll have a roadmap that takes you through the entire process of planning, launching, and optimizing a performance-based display campaign.
And if you buy the course and have any follow-up questions about how to create effective banner ads, just drop us a line.
Had a fun time on Wednesday last week participating in “Display Advertising for Brand Awareness,” a roundtable webcast along with several other luminaries from such companies as:
- ReTargeter (the organizer) — one of the top retargeting networks
- Bizo — an online marketing platform sepcifically for B2B marketers
- Vizu — helps measure the impact of your online branding & advertising
- Flite — similar concept to Canned Banners, except Flite has a more sophisticated GUI and is intended for advanced users needing to design rich media creatives, as opposed to standard banner ads
This ended up being a great discussion around display advertising in the context of brand awareness, as opposed to direct response, which often dominates the focus of online advertisers. Listen to the recording for some great thoughts on:
- Best practices for ad creative in the context of a brand awareness campaign
- How retargeting can be best used to generate brand awareness
- The future of online branding
In case you missed it, Canned Banners launched a slew of new changes on Friday, which are all very exciting:
Instant ad downloads
For the longest time, our ad builder took up to 24 hours to deliver your finished ads. What a drag! All of our ads are now available for download within minutes after you purchase them. And boy howdy, is it sweet. You can create a set of banners in the morning, test them during the day, and create a new improved set in the evening. You’ll be optimizing the flippin’ heck out of your campaigns. Start making ads »
Lower & simpler pricing: $25 per banner
Before, our pricing was $50 for your first banner, then $25 dollars for each additional banner within the same template set. It was overly complicated. Now you can throw away your slide rule and your astrolabe, because all ads are just $25 apiece.
No longer a valid method for understanding our pricing.
Lower prices = better ad performance
We hope that by lowering our prices, our customers will be encouraged to buy more ads. Why more ads? Because the more ads you run, the more data you’ll have on what performs well and what doesn’t. There is no universal recipe for high-performing ad creative, so the only way to really know what works best for your campaign is to try lots of different things. Running multiple ads with different colors, images, text, etc will help you learn what works for your brand and your audience. Canned Banners makes that easy to do by offering inexpensive, easy-to-use ad creation tools.
We’ve said goodbye to PayPal (at least for now). You can now check out with your credit card right inside our website. This makes the checkout process simpler and easier. Our payments are now processed with the help of Stripe, which supports all major credit cards, including American Express, VISA, Mastercard, and Diners Club.
We can’t tell you how many requests we’ve had for Diners Club card support.
Actually, we can tell you, because there have been exactly zero.
Jazzy new website design
Have you seen this thing? Holy cow, it makes the old site look like a pile of old dog food (That would be the food that is old, not food for old dogs. But you get the idea).
New URL for our Basic Ad Builder
As part of this release, we’ve also moved a few things around. Our Basic Ad Builder now lives on its own site at builder.cannedbanners.com. All functionality is basically unchanged and existing user accounts are still accessible at the new location.
Plus there are a bunch of bug fixes and tweaks thrown in there too, but I don’t want to bore you with that stuff, as you’ve been such an attentive audience. The best way to see what’s new is to take a look!
Chris (taking the photo, so not pictured) brewed up some special Canned Banners beer (Got a clever name for it? Please leave it in the comments). Here we are enjoying it on the roof. Pity us.
An improvement on the LUMA-scape
Mediaplex recently published a new map of the display ad landscape. It’s like a cleaned-up version of the famous LUMA-scapes.
It’s a great graphic, and this post isn’t intended to diminish its value. If Mediaplex neglected to include ad creation, I’d like to explore why, and then figure out what to do about it.
PDF version on mediaplex.com
Where does creative fit in?
Mediaplex seems to have left out any mention of display ad creative, or more specifically, how ad creative originates. It’s as if ad creative appears out of thin air; it’s even difficult to say which ring said ad creative would choose to materialize in. But given the fractured and inefficient way that the display ad ecosystem deals with ad creative, it’s completely understandable why Mediaplex omits it. LUMA is guilty of the exact same thing.
There are, however, sections of the Mediaplex graphic that imply the existence of ad creative:
- Rich Media (a broadly-defined creative format)
- Creative Optimization (the process of algorithmically perfecting an existing creative concept)
- Ad Servers (serving up existing creative files or ad tags)
Ad creative, go stand in the corner.
If Mediaplex and LUMA are attempting to encapsulate the entirety of the display ad landscape, it follows that anything left out must not be part of the landscape.
However, I don’t think that Mediaplex or LUMA are intending to imply anything of the sort; they know as well as anyone that you could remove large swaths of both their existing landscapes (MediaPlex | LUMA) and still have a functioning system where advertisers can run display campaigns. But remove ad creative and the whole thing grinds to a halt.
So why does ad creation get the short shrift? A few theories:
- The industry pundits making the graphics don’t fully understand how or where ad creative originates.
- Many industry participants still buy into the fable that ad agencies are like storks that deliver babies. Agencies are where ads come from. End of story. Now stop asking silly questions that will just embarrass everyone.
- The creation of ads is seen as a given, therefore it’s taken for granted and not scrutinized.
- Failure to grasp the distinction and relationship between the creation of display ads and the trafficking/tracking/optimization of display ads.
- Shallow, uninformed, or misguided assumptions about the creative process.
- An overall bias towards engineering in the display ad ecosystem.
To illustrate just how much is being omitted, I created a rough overlay of where ad creative comes from (below). It’s literally all over the map (and my overlay doesn’t even chart the complex paths that a piece of creative might take after it’s been generated).
You’re a mess, get your act together
As I’ve pointed out, even if the Terry Kawajas of the world wanted to add a “Creative” section to their ecosystem maps, where would they put it? What companies would it include? What would “Creative” be adjascent to and how would it interact with its neighbors? There are literally hundreds of answers to those questions.
Display ad creation is currently a free-for-all. The only real standards come from the IAB, and those mostly boil down to a ever-growing array of width x height pairings. Beyond that, it’s whatever you can cobble together and successfully sneak past ad ops.
What all this implies is that ad creation is sorely in need of standardization. Ad creation isn’t just a necessary evil, it’s one of the lynch-pins of the whole ecosystem, so making it more efficient deserves some serious thought.
Let me suggest a handful of opportunities that would arise if digital display ad creative shared a common set of standards that went beyond basic attributes like width x height or file size:
- No more wasted time haggling with ad ops over Flash versioning and clickTAG minutia (seriously, this alone probably costs the online ad industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year in wasted time).
- A single ad can more easily re-render and re-size across a burgeoning and increasingly unpredictable array of browsers, devices, screen types, and ad unit sizes (to help solidify the implications of this, think where the web would be if HTML/CSS wasn’t a universal standard and every company needed to create dozens of separate but nearly identical websites to accommodate the different screen sizes & devices used by viewers).
- Ads can be generated much more easily. No longer does an agency need field a platoon of designers to spend weeks creating ads in 20 sizes and 6 idiosyncratic creative formats…all for a single campaign.
Need display ad creative? Currently you’ve got some amazing options. Have fun.
Why are display ads still like fax machines?
The standardization of display ad creative also enables a tectonic shift from unstructured to structured data. Let me stress: this will be huh-yooge when it happens.
To illustrate the chasm between unstructured and structured data, think of insertion orders. A faxed insertion order sitting on a desk is unstructured data. It’s impossible for a machine to parse or manipulate whatever information is contained in a paper fax. Any potential scale, efficiency, or automation is lost, locked up in a piece of paper.
On the other hand, RTB transactions are like billions of mini insertion orders, except they’re executed at massive scale via billions of points of structured data.
- faxed insertion orders = unstructured data = vastly inefficient and old-fashioned
- RTB = structured data = highly automated and scalable
Just think of display’s savior, retargeting. How would retargeting even be possible if media buys were all still executed via fax?
Want more on structured versus unstructured data on the web? Here’s an oldie but a goodie.
In a display ad ecosystem that’s increasingly data-driven, automated, and scalable, display ad creative seems to be getting a pass. This is a huge mistake, but rest assured it will change eventually. There’s way too much pent-up efficiency waiting to be unlocked.
I’ll leave you with a final hypothetical to illustrate the potential value of structured data as it pertains to display ad creative:
Imagine the Travelzoo ad above right…the structured-data version that’s machine-readable. If, for every impression, a publisher site can understand the content of all available ads bidding for that impression, the publisher can reliably contribute to the decision of which ads to show. After all, the publisher and advertiser are basically after the same thing: the most relevant & compelling match between viewer and ad.
However, that decision is currently mostly a one-way street. Advertisers have a great deal of control over which publishers/networks on which to run ads, but publishers have less and less control over exactly which ads get shown on their sites, in part because there is no existing way for a publisher to parse the content of an ad in the split-second it takes to complete an RTB transaction or choose an available ad from a server.
This would be akin to Netflix taking down their website and then blindly sending me DVDs based only on their own recommendation algorithm. Sure, some of the movies would be great, but without my direct input into choosing movies, Netflix would send me a lot of unwanted stuff.
In conclusion (finally)
Sorry if it seems like we’ve ended up miles from where we started. Let’s recap our journey:
- Display ad ecosystem maps seem to overlook ad creation.
- This isn’t surprising, ad creation is stuck in the dark ages.
- How would ad creation have to change in order to become better integrated into an otherwise highly data-driven ecosystem?
And there you have it…love to hear some thoughts in the comments.