Banner Design: Creating the Perfect Display Ad
People sometimes underestimate the power of a well-designed banner ad. Honestly, I cannot understand why. Here’s the thing – whether you love or hate them, banner ads are a huge part of the Internet now and they’re here to stay. Today, my friends and I casually talked about going on a beach holiday together and minutes later, a bunch of ads with the most perfect beaches popped up all over my Facebook feed. Sound familiar? This happens more than you think and on a massive scale all around the world. Practically everyone who uses social media is susceptible to being brainwashed – either to buy something, or go somewhere or use a certain service. If you have a truly winning banner design, some sucker (aka me) would book your all-inclusive beach holiday package to Greece less than 5 minutes after seeing your ad.
To put it simply, your banner ad is a virtual name-card for your business. For many people, this is the first contact they’ll have with your brand and so, a good first impression is key. Every set of eyes on it is a potential customer you might stand to gain. If your ad is seriously clickbait enough, you can boost your online traffic significantly with one really good banner design.
So how do I do this, you might ask? Luckily for you, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to creating display ads for your business. Read on and by the end of it, you’ll be a pro!
First and foremost, let’s talk about sizes.
What size should you choose for your banners?
This depends heavily on which channel you’re going to promote it on.
For Google, the most common and popular ad sizes for Google Ads are:
Medium Rectangle – 300 x 250px
The medium rectangle is fairly small and compact and fits well with Mobile, Text and Display. If you’re new to banner design, this is a great option as medium rectangles are usually embedded in the text, making it almost impossible to ignore. Medium rectangle ads are also one of the most successful as there is a huge amount of free space across the Google Display Network.
Large Rectangle – 336 x 280px
Just a tad bigger than the medium, the large rectangle is another good option for brands that want their ad embedded within text. Unlike the medium, the large rectangle size doesn’t work for mobile displays. Having said that, large rectangle ads are more eye-catching as they are bigger and this increases the chances of it being clicked. Like the medium rectangle, the large rectangle works best when it’s either within or at the end of the article.
Large Mobile Banner – 320 x 100px
The number of people surfing the web purely through mobile devices has been on the rise in recent years. As such, the large mobile banner which is the biggest mobile-specific size possible, is a great choice for websites with high volumes of mobile traffic. However, unless you have a very specific call to action and concise message that can fit within the space, we would recommend choosing medium rectangles for your banner ads instead as they can run on both mobiles and desktops.
Half Page / Large Skyscraper – 300 x 600px
While it’s not literally ‘half’ a page as its name suggests, the Half Page / Large Skyscraper banner ads are great choices for advertisers that need a little more space to get their message across. As they take up more room, they’re typically found on the side and never embedded within text. Having said that, they perform fairly well and convey a lot of information as they are more eye-grabbing than the smaller-sized banner ads. This encourages more clicks and subsequently, conversions.
Leaderboard – 728 x 90px
Leaderboards are typically seen at the top of the page and perform best when they are embedded above the main content. Due to its width, this banner size is great if you want to display logos and brand names amongst other text.
For Facebook you will be working with a whole new set of dimensions. While Facebook has arguably lost some of its glamour in recent years, it’s definitely not a channel you should cast aside. With approximately 2.89 billion active users as of the second quarter of 2021, Facebook remains the biggest social network worldwide. If you would like to advertise through Facebook, these are the ad sizes we recommend:
Vertical Feed Images – 1200 x 1500px
As most people browse through Facebook on their phone, we find it’s better to use vertical images sized 1200 x 1500px for optimal mobile viewing. This may seem big but bear in mind that Facebook will automatically compress your photos when you upload it. By uploading your image at an optimal resolution, you can ensure that the quality of the image will not be affected.
Square Feed Images – 1080 x 1080px
If your image was shot in landscape mode and doesn’t look as good when it’s cropped to fit vertical image sizes, we recommend using 1080 x 1080px and uploading it as a square instead. The logic is simple - vertical and square posts take up more space on the screen and this makes them more eye-catching. This translates to a higher engagement rate and good news for your marketing team!
Facebook Story – 1080 x 1920px
Facebook stories are meant to fill up your entire phone screen so they need a resolution of at least 1080 x 1080px and optimally, 1080x 1920px. Psst! When you’re designing, don’t forget that your profile picture and buttons (play, pause, forward) will appear at the top of your stories so leave a bit of space free for that!
Introduced as a platform aimed at photo and video sharing, Instagram is a purely visual channel and thus, it’s especially crucial that your ads are visually captivating and grab the viewer’s attention straightaway. If you are using Instagram to do most of your marketing (as many brands do!), we highly recommend using:
Vertical Feed Images – 1080 x 1350px
We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: Vertical. Images. Work. Best. Most people hold their phones vertically and with mobile phones being long rather than wide, you can make the most of your ad and take up more of the screen just by posting vertical/portrait images.
For Instagram’s main feed, we recommend using the size 1080 x 1350px.
Square Feed Images – 1080 x 1080px
When Instagram was first launched, it was known for only having square images. While we love that you can now upload landscape and portrait images, we still don’t recommend the former and so if you can’t post your image as a portrait, at least aim for a square of at least 1080px wide.
Instagram Stories – 1080 x 1920px
If you want to make sure that the image fits the story perfectly, you should design your Instagram Stories image with a size of 1080 x 1920px. Hint: it’s also best to use portrait images for your design where possible as stories are meant to be viewed vertically. Even though we can rotate our phones to see your landscape image, it’s frankly annoying and honestly, who has time for that? The next story is just one tap away!
By this point, do you already know what sizes you need to be using for your banner designs? Great! Let’s move on!
Where to put my banner?
After banner design, the next important factor you need to master is where to place your ad. Placing your ad in the right place can really help you draw in the right crowd and optimise your business profits. Here are our top choices for banner ad placements:
Placing your ad here can help you attract people that are not yet acquainted with your brand. Through your Ads Manager, you can decide whether your ads run on mobile displays, desktops or both. Typically, desktop users will follow through with a conversion more frequently than mobile users but the cost per conversion (CPC) for mobile users is lower. These are all factors you need to consider before deciding where to place your banner ad.
Instagram ads have a significantly higher engagement rate compared to Facebook. While both allow you to select your target audience and further refine it using factors such as gender, interests and age group, Instagram ads generally provide better results in terms of ROI and CPC. Having said that, there are more features available for advertising via Facebook feed and for Instagram, it usually looks like a normal post with a call to action button.
If you have a physical shop or provide local services, this is the perfect place for you to place your ad. People who see your ad on Marketplace have usually expressed prior interest in similar products/services so the intent to purchase is already there. Cha-ching, cha-ching!
Facebook Right Column
Facebook Right Column ads only appear on the desktop. They may occasionally turn up in other areas but usually, they are found in the right-hand column of a Facebook page. These ads work best when you also post on the News Feed. If you’re not looking specifically to convert people who have just come into contact with your brand and just want a bit of boosted exposure, the Right Column can be a good choice. Needless to say, the News Feed is still the channel that gets the most attention so no matter what, don’t neglect that!
With more than 200 million active accounts on Instagram accessing Instagram’s Explore page, this is a really strong marketing tool and a powerful place to place your ad. According to Instagram, 83% of people discovered new brands and products through Instagram and 50% of accounts browse through the Explore function each month.
When users click on a media element in the Explore page, they are transported to the Discovery page where photo and video ads related to the user are displayed. Considering that the Explore page is entirely personalized based on the interests of the user, chances are the user has already searched for your product/service before, and you therefore have a high chance of conversion. Ads in the Discovery feed are shown exactly as they would appear in the normal feed, and are very visually appealing.
By placing your ad in Facebook stories, your banner ad will pop up in between other people’s stories on Facebook. In general, placing your ad here has a high engagement rate and it’s ideal for promoting awareness of your brand. However, you need to make sure that your content is concise and straight to the point, as videos are only shown for 15 seconds. Remember, sometimes less is more!
Like Facebook, ad placements show up in between the stories of other users. The CPC for Instagram Stories is higher than other placements, but this is a great way to attract customers who have already liked you on Facebook. By customizing the call-to-action buttons, you can also customize the ad to suit your business, e.g. ‘Shop Now’ to feature and sell certain products in your online shop.
How to write winning headlines for your banners
Feature the BEST
Before you sit down and design your ad, think about what features excite you MOST about your product/service and highlight that. If you feel everything’s important, take a couple of minutes and ask a few friends what they would value most if they were a customer and target those aspects. There’s a reason why people pay so much for market research.
For example, if you’re selling a beach holiday package to Greece, “Fly to Greece!” will not fare as well as “Lanzarote: All-inclusive beachfront resort packages from $349!”. Attract your users with a short but informative heading and draw them in with key features of your product or service.
People are more likely to click on an ad under slight pressure. No one likes to lose out. By using terms such as “Today Only!”, “Final Sale Today” or “Last Day Today!”, you can harness this and make people feel like they need to look at this right now. Girls, I’m sure you feel me on this.
Of all the ads I’ve seen, the ones that are really memorable are the creative ones. Make a pun, slip in a famous quote, use an eye-grabbing picture… the possibilities are endless. Creativity can really make or break an ad.
In 2020, Bahrain IKEA made a really embarrassing blunder on one of their billboards.
Instead of saying “create your perfect night’s sleep” in Arabic, the Arabic text translates to “same text but in Arabic”.
Rather than redesign the billboard, Bahrain IKEA executed the smoothest marketing save in history and added a witty caption “This is what happens when you don’t get enough sleep.”
The ad immediately went viral. The original would never have gotten such amazing results if the translation was correct!
In a nutshell
All in all, the best advice we can give you when it comes to headlines: think of how others are doing it. Think of the last time you clicked on an ad, what did it say? What would make YOU want to click and find out more? If you’re new to this, fake it till you make it. Model as much as you can from successful businesses, and you’ll get the hang of it soon enough!
How to test your banner and design
Having shown you all the different possibilities in terms of ad sizes and placements, do you already have an idea of how to ace this? We certainly hope so!
One thing we really want to highlight? Trial and error is key. When it comes to design, do several mock-ups and ask your immediate friends and family which they prefer or which is more attention grabbing. Take advantage of this free focus group and make the most of it.
When it comes to ad placements, don’t shy away from the more expensive ad placements just because of the costs. For example, Instagram has really high costs but also significantly higher results. By mixing and matching high and low-cost ad placements and sizes, you can reach the highest possible number of your target group with your budget.
Most importantly, as you run your campaigns, don’t forget to track the results! Monitor which placements and ad sizes are getting you more clicks or conversions, and switch it up until you find your winning formula. If you’re not currently using a campaign monitoring package, we highly recommend AdEspresso by Hootsuite.
If you have any other questions about banner design or ad design, just shoot us an email and our elves will be happy to help you out!