Creating Client Banner Ads That Work

Banner ads are one of the best forms of marketing used in today’s online world.  All companies use them in one form or another because they’re an affordable, measurable and effective way to increase brand awareness.

In your market you’ll be tasked with taking client copy from their radio script and presenting it visually in the form of a banner ad on your station website.  It’s your job to create a banner ad that will bring in those clicks!  Below are some tips and general guidelines for designing effective banner ads.

Banner Ad Image Sizes

Stick to Standard Banner Ad Sizes

Banner ads are not a one-size-fits-all type of project. Google AdWords, one of the biggest servers of banner ads on the web, keeps up with the most popular sizes. “As a rule of thumb,” according to Google, “wider ad sizes tend to outperform their taller counterparts.” Much of this may have to do with placement above the scroll and because it is more comfortable to read from left to right, rather than lots of stacked text.

So here are the sizes you should consider first:

  • 728 pixels by 90 pixels leaderboard
  • 300 by 250 medium rectangle
  • 300 by 600 half page
  • 320 by 50 mobile banner

It’s best to adhere to Google’s standard image sizes, especially if you plan on agency buys.  Most agencies will have creative ready to go in the standard image sizes.  If you use non-standard sizes within your site you may have to recreate their creative each time or get passed over for the buy.

Maintain the Essentials

Every banner ad needs three elements: Branding, message and encouragement to click.  The challenge is that you don’t have much room for this.

The message should be succinct – two to 10 words is ideal. What are you offering and why should people want it. Then include the client logo or identification.  It has to be easily readable and does not have to be large.  Then finish with an actionable reason to click.  Is the client having a sale?  Do they have a coupon code?  Incentive to sign up for their e-mail newsletter?

All three of these elements are essential so try to get the client to give you something that will cause immediate action from the listener/website viewer.

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One Message Per Ad

Banner ads are not a never-ending rotation of messages.  The use of animated gifs can be used to grab focus.  They should not be used for displaying endless words of ad copy.

Start with a static ad first.  If it doesn’t fully get across the essentials mentioned above, only then should you try to adding animated elements.  Moving elements in an ad should not be the one thing people see. Your messaging should be the most important thing on the screen.

Include a Call to Action

I know I mentioned this one above, but it’s worth mentioning again.  The ultimate goal of a banner ad is to get clicked?  A good call to action does this.  What are users supposed to do next?  This can include signing up for an email list, getting a discount and so on.  But you have to clearly tell users to perform this action. “Click here to get half off lunch today!”

Bring a sense of visual urgency to the text by using contrasting, bold colors. Web ads are not always meant to be subtle.

Make sure the design is consistent with that company’s branding

Your client’s banner ad is going to link to a landing page about the call to action in their ad.  Make sure it looks consistent with the client’s branding and the landing page it links to so that their potential customers don’t get confused.

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Include a Button

Easy-to-follow instructions are vital to most consumers. While most users know they can click ads, sometimes including an actual button is what makes them actually move the mouse.

Including a button does not have to be fancy. But a simple “Shop Now” or “Click to Enter” can go a long way to getting users to make the switch from viewer to conversion.

Choose Fonts Wisely

The smaller the space, the more important fonts become. Make the most of the space provided with strong typefaces that are easy to read.

As a rule of thumb, two typefaces should be enough.

  1. Go big with the headline. Use something that’s bold, a little unusual or colorful to grab attention from users.  DO NOT EVER use the “Comic Sans” font!  Seriously, ever.
  2. Stick to a simple serif or sans serif font for everything else. You can use two sizes or bold – one for main text and another for buttons or calls to action.  Just make sure it is easy to read.


Use imagery well, and only when you need it

Choose relevant images, graphics or photos that enhance your message and that are directly related to your client’s product.  If you don’t have photos from the client, consider buy an affordable license for a stock photo or choose from one of these free stock image sites.  There are millions of high quality ones out there.

If the client provides you with a photo, be sure to ask if they are licensed to use it.  Just like copyrighted music is forbidden in commercials without proper license, photo use without the proper license can bring stiff penalties.

If you are afraid of cropping, this is the time to get over it. The images in banner ads are small – often very small – and you will have to use tight images and detail shots to make the most of the space.

A strong image next to a strong message is your best bet but it’s not always necessary to use photos or images in your banner ads.  Simple text banner ads will great copy and nice typography can be just as effective.

Save Banner Ads Properly

This is a big one. No one is going to want to serve your ads if the image files are too large or if they are not formatted properly. Optimize your images for the smallest file size possible. The target file size should be around 150 kb, depending on the size of the ad.  Keep in mind that animated GIFs can get very large depending on the animation involved.

Make sure to save in a format that works across the web. Common file types for banner ads include PNG and JPG for static displays, and GIF for animated displays. As the popularity of SVG increases, this format is becoming more widely accepted as well.

Link Appropriately

If your client has a well thought out call to action on their banner ad, ensure that it links to that action item and not their homepage.  The user should not have to find the action item themselves from the client homepage.  Users will thank you for this and the client will more likely get the conversion they are looking for.


So as we mentioned last week, the banner ad is not dead yet (and it’s probably not going away anytime soon).  Using these banner ad tips in an effective way will help your clients get the results they came to you for.  Good luck!

Jim Sherwood serves as the chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects. Jim is a 30+ year radio veteran with a resume spanning several small, medium, and large markets including roles as Digital Content Manager, Program Director, Production Manager, and Morning Show Host.