Full Guide: What Is Banner Advertising and How Does It Work? (2023)

Have you ever visited a website and noticed an ad at the top or on the side of the page? Chances are, you were looking at a banner ad. 
Banner advertising has been around for decades, but still plays a crucial role in online advertising today, wrestling with the perpetual challenge of capturing people’s attention in a world absolutely riddled with ads. Fortunately, when done right, banner ads can help businesses reach their target audience and achieve their marketing goals.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore what banner advertising is, how it works, and how you can create effective banner ads to drive results.

What Are Banner Ads?

Banner ads are a type of online advertising that uses graphic images or multimedia content to promote a brand, product, or service on websites, social media platforms, or mobile apps.
These ads typically appear in the form of rectangular or square-shaped banners that display at the top, side, or bottom of a website or app interface. Banner ads can be static, animated, or interactive, and they usually contain text, images, or videos, as well as a call-to-action (CTA) button that encourages users to click through to a landing page or website. The goal of banner advertising: to attract the attention of website or app users and drive traffic to a brand's website, ultimately increasing sales and revenue.
Banner ads are usually sold on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) basis, meaning that advertisers pay for each click or impression that their banner ads receive. They can be targeted to specific audiences based on factors like demographics, location, interests, and behaviors, making them a highly effective and efficient form of digital advertising. Here are some of the most popular types:
  • Static banner ads are the most basic type of banner ads, featuring a simple static image or graphic with a call-to-action button. They do not have any animation or interactive elements.
  • Animated banner ads use animated graphics or images that can move, flash, or change to catch the user's attention. These ads can be more eye-catching than static ads but can also be distracting if not used correctly.
  • Interactive banner ads allow users to interact with them, such as by playing a game or filling out a form. They can be effective in engaging users and increasing click-through rates.
  • Rich media banner ads use multimedia elements such as video or audio to engage users. They can be more engaging than other types of banner ads, but they can also be more expensive to create.
  • Expandable banner ads start out as a small banner but expand to a larger size when a user hovers over or clicks on them. They’re effective in providing more information to the user without taking up too much space on a web page.
  • Pop-up banner ads appear in a separate window or tab and can be more intrusive than other types of banner ads. They are often blocked by ad-blockers and can be annoying to users if overused.
  • Mobile banner ads are designed specifically for mobile devices, are optimized for smaller screens, and often include click-to-call or click-to-download features.

How Banner Ads Work

Banner ads work by displaying a graphic or multimedia advertisement on a website or mobile app interface. These ads are usually sold through advertising networks or directly from the publisher of the website or app. When a user visits a website or app that displays banner ads, the ads are loaded from the advertiser's server and displayed in a designated space on the web page or app interface. Targeting methods can include contextual targeting, which displays ads based on the content of the web page or app, and behavioral targeting, which displays ads based on the user's browsing history and interests.
To measure the performance of banner ads, advertisers use a variety of metrics, including click-through rates (CTR), impressions, and conversion rates. CTR measures the percentage of users who click on the ad, while impressions measure the number of times the ad is displayed on the website or app. Conversion rates measure the percentage of users who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form, after clicking on the ad.
Advertisers can use these metrics to optimize their banner ad campaigns, by adjusting targeting parameters, ad creative, or ad placement. They can also use A/B testing to compare the performance of different ad variations, and retargeting to reach users who have already interacted with the ad. By employing these methods, advertisers can create effective banner ad campaigns that drive traffic and sales for their business.
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Standard Banner Ad Sizes and Usage

Several common banner ad sizes are used in online advertising — you’ve most likely seen all of the variations in action across your travels on the web. They include:
  • Leaderboard (728 x 90 pixels): This is a large, horizontal banner that typically appears at the top of a webpage. It can accommodate a lot of information and is great for brand awareness and visibility.
  • Medium rectangle (300 x 250 pixels): This is a rectangular banner that can be placed in various locations on a webpage, such as the sidebar or within content. It is versatile and can be used for both branding and direct response campaigns.
  • Skyscraper (160 x 600 pixels or 120 x 600 pixels): This is a tall, vertical banner that is typically placed in the sidebar of a webpage. It is great for branding and can be used to showcase products or services.
  • Square (250 x 250 pixels): This is a square banner that can be placed in various locations on a webpage, such as within content or in the sidebar. It is versatile and can be used for both branding and direct response campaigns.
  • Large rectangle (336 x 280 pixels): This is a larger version of the medium rectangle banner, and can be used for more detailed messaging or larger graphics.
Websites use different banner ad sizes to accommodate different types of content and layout, and to optimize the user experience. For example, a website may choose to place a leaderboard banner at the top of the page to maximize visibility, or a medium rectangle banner within content to encourage users to engage with the ad. By using different banner ad sizes and placements, websites can provide a variety of options for advertisers and ensure that ads are integrated seamlessly into the user experience.
The advantages and disadvantages of different banner ad sizes depend on the specific goals of the advertising campaign. Larger banner ads, such as the leaderboard and skyscraper, can be more eye-catching and effective for brand awareness campaigns, while smaller banner ads, such as the medium rectangle and square, can be more effective for direct response campaigns. However, larger banner ads can also be more expensive to produce and may take up valuable real estate on a their host page, while smaller banner ads may be less visible and less effective for certain types of campaigns.

Banner Ad Cost and Placement

The cost of banner ads can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the size of the ad, the format of the ad, the targeting parameters, the ad placement, and the popularity of the website or app that they represent.
Generally speaking, larger and more complex ads are more expensive to produce and therefore cost more to run, while ads with more targeted parameters, such as behavioral targeting or retargeting, can be more expensive due to the higher level of personalization. Additionally, ads placed on popular websites or apps with a high volume of traffic may be more expensive due to the increased demand for advertising space. As mentioned earlier, pricing models include:
  • Cost per click (CPC): Advertisers pay each time a user clicks on their ad.
  • Cost per impression (CPM): Advertisers pay for every thousand times their ad is displayed on a website or app.
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): Advertisers pay when a user completes a specific action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
And then there’s placement — the importance of which cannot be overstated. Ad placement routinely has a significant impact on an ad’s performance. In prominent locations, such as at the top of a webpage or within content, banner ads are more likely to be seen by users and therefore have a higher chance of generating clicks and conversions. Advertisers should also consider the context of the placement, ensuring that the ad is relevant to the content of the web page or app and the interests of the target audience. By carefully considering ad placement, advertisers can maximize the impact of their banner ads to help achieve their campaign goals.
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What Makes a Banner Ad Successful?

Several factors contribute to successful banner ads:
  • Clear messaging: The ad should have a clear and concise message that communicates the benefits of the product or service being advertised.
  • Eye-catching design: The ad should have a visually appealing design that grabs the user's attention and stands out on the webpage or app.
  • Relevance: The ad should be relevant to the interests of the target audience and the content of the webpage or app where it is displayed.
  • Call-to-action (CTA): The ad should include a clear and compelling call-to-action that encourages users to click on the ad and engage with the advertiser.
  • Targeting: Ads that are targeted to specific audiences based on their interests, demographics, and behavior are more likely to generate clicks.
  • Optimization for different devices: The ad should be optimized for different devices and screen sizes, ensuring that it looks good and functions properly on desktop and mobile devices.
  • A/B testing: Advertisers should test different versions of their ad to see which performs best, and use this information to optimize future campaigns.
Conversely, common mistakes to avoid in banner ad design include cluttered design, poor contrast, too much text, irrelevant or misleading content, and a lack of testing. By avoiding these misfires and focusing on best practices, businesses can create effective campaigns that generate clicks and conversions.

Does Banner Advertising Still Work?

In a word, definitely — if banner ads didn’t deliver, they would’ve been left behind long ago en masse.
That being said, the effectiveness of banner advertising is debated. While some studies have shown that banner ads can be effective at generating clicks and conversions, others have shown that users are becoming more resistant to banner ads and may actively avoid them (a phenomenon known as banner blindness, where people have become accustomed to ignoring banner ads due to their prevalence and similarity). Additionally, ad-blocking software has become more popular, which can prevent ads from being displayed to users. 
To avoid those fates as much as possible, businesses have to work harder to create ads that stand out and provide value to users, as well as stay on top of current trends to ensure their ads and strategies are informed and perform as effectively as possible. Those trends include:
  • Personalization: Advertisers are increasingly using data to personalize banner ads, targeting specific audiences based on their interests and behavior (more on personalization shortly).
  • Interactive ads: Advertisers are experimenting with interactive ads, such as quizzes, games, and videos, that engage users and provide a more immersive experience.
  • Native advertising: Advertisers are incorporating banner ads into the content of websites and apps, making them appear more natural and less intrusive.
  • Mobile optimization: As more users access the internet on mobile devices, advertisers are focusing on optimizing their banner ads for smaller screens and touch-based interactions.
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Strategies that Help Increase Impressions and Clicks

Strategies for increasing banner ad impressions and clicks should incorporate the factors mentioned and can also include:
  • Retargeting: Through retargeting, businesses can retarget users who have previously interacted with their website or app, increasing the likelihood that they will click on the ad.
  • Frequency capping: Advertisers can limit the number of times an ad is shown to the same user, reducing the risk of ad fatigue and increasing the likelihood of clicks.
  • Incentives: Brands can offer incentives such as discounts, free trials, or exclusive content to encourage users to click on their ads.
Burger King’s "Whopper Detour" campaign is a strong example of how a creative, intelligent strategy can play out favorably. The campaign used geofencing technology to target users who were within 600 feet of a McDonald's restaurant, offering them a one-cent Whopper if they ordered through the Burger King app while at a McDonald's location.
The campaign generated over 1.5 million downloads of the Burger King app and increased foot traffic to Burger King locations by 18.5%. The campaign was so successful because it used targeting, incentives, and a creative concept to grab users' attention and encourage clicks.

Banner Ads and Personalization

It’s no secret that humans love to feel recognized and catered to, and that they will reward that kind of attention with preferential consideration — that’s the impetus behind personalization, which uses data about a potential customer’s interests, behavior, demographics, and other factors to deliver a more relevant and personalized message.
Studies have shown that personalized ads (tailored by nature) have higher conversion rates compared to non-personalized ads (generic by nature). Makes easy sense: Personalized ads are more relevant and engaging to their beholder, increasing the likelihood that they will take action. They also drive higher conversion rates and better ROI (all at the risk of feeling too invasive or creepy, it should be understood).
To collect and utilize data for personalized ads, businesses can use tools such as Snapchat Ads Manager and Google Analytics, as well as third-party data management platforms. That data is collected from a variety of sources, including cookies, website analytics, social media profiles, and third-party data providers. 
Note that throughout the process and regardless of platform affiliation, it’s on advertisers to comply with data privacy regulations and obtain people’s consent to use their data for personalization purposes. Going about things in a responsible and ethical manner is absolutely and legally necessary — and equally important is transparency with customers about how their data is being used.
Lastly, businesses should regularly analyze and optimize their campaigns based on data insights to ensure that they are delivering the best possible results.

How to Create Banner Ads

Assuming the banner ad direction makes sense for your business to pursue, creating effective banner ads follows, requiring careful planning, creative design, and strategic placement. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to go about it:

Step 1: Define your target audience and campaign objectives


Before creating your banner ads, define your target audience and campaign objectives. Who are you trying to reach with your ads? What do you want them to do? Answering those questions will help you create a more effective ad that resonates with your audience and drives results.

Step 2: Determine the ad size and format


Once you know your target audience and campaign objective, you can determine the ad size and format that will best meet your needs. Consider the placement of your ad, the message you want to convey, and the creative assets at your disposal.

Step 3: Design your ad


Be sure to follow best practices for ad design, including using clear and concise messaging, eye-catching graphics, and a strong call-to-action, while making sure it’s consistent with your brand identity. Tools like Snap Publisher, which offers a free way to turn images into videos, Adobe Photoshop, Canva, or Google Web Designer are excellent options for ad creative.

Step 4: Create multiple versions of your ad


To test the effectiveness of your ad, create multiple versions with different designs or messaging and A/B test them so you can see which version performs best and make adjustments as needed. 

Step 5: Test your ad


Before launching your ad, test it to ensure it looks and functions properly. Make sure the ad is within the size and format guidelines required by the host platform.

Step 6: Choose the right placement


Remember: Placement is critical to your ad’s success. Consider where your target audience spends their time online and choose platforms or websites where your ad will have the most impact.

Step 7: Track and optimize your campaign


Once your ad is live, track its performance and make adjustments as needed — monitor clicks, impressions, and other key metrics.
Want to explore additional personalized ad options, all of which are shown to members of one of the most engaged and active social platforms on the planet? Right this way.