Running The Ad Gauntlet
Whenever I hear the expression, ‘running the gauntlet,’ I’m immediately transported back to my childhood Saturday evenings and my favorite show, Gladiators.
One of many challenges contestants had to overcome was The Gauntlet – consisting of four or five mountain-sized individuals armed with various apparatus trying to stop you running through to the other side.
Not many made it. Most were beaten down. Ganged up on and squished into submission, you know, with the, er, big spongy things wrapped in plastic.
Those were the days.
Running Display Ads can be a bit like that. They’re inherently risky because of their reputation for attracting fraud, meaning your ad budget can be quickly obliterated.
But, just like the handful of contestants that would make it through, there are ways to navigate the Display Ad world successfully.
Top Tips For Optimizing Display Ads
Here are my top three things to remember when putting together a Display Ad:
Respect Your Audience
Look, let’s not get too technical here. Ads that autoplay, pop-ups that you can’t seem to click off, and – my biggest bugbear – ads that take over the whole page are nothing but irritating.
Put a static ad near the edge of the screen or within the text on the site and be gone!
Doing it this way brings a couple of benefits. One, your ad is seen, maybe even admired, and saved for later. And two, it saves me throwing the computer out of the window.
Simple By Design
That segues nicely into my next tip, which focuses on the design of the ad itself. If you respect your audience, it means you’ve got limited time and space to get your message across.
Of course, you want to tell your brand story. But this isn’t the place or the time to communicate that.
Keep things clean, concise, and striking. The image you choose needs to catch people’s attention, but still be relevant to your message. You don’t even have to use images if you don’t want – bold fonts and colours can go a long way when done right.
Version one is never going to be spot on, and that’s okay. Use the data and results you receive on your first Display Ad campaign to inform what you could do better next time.
There are a few more things to bear in mind, things like including a strong call to action, prices/promotions, and providing a relevant landing page. But you get the general gist. It’s common sense, really, more than anything (just don’t say that in a marketing meeting).
Does Size Matter?
Now, one crucial element that can’t be overlooked and deserves its own section is the size of the ad.
It affects everything, from reach and click-through rate to the likelihood of it being disapproved or targeted by fraud.
Put simply: certain Display Ads see more fraud than others. Unpopular sizes are more likely to be published on fake sites created with malicious intent where 90%+ of its traffic is fake.
And that’s not good news for advertisers, where more impressions equal more cost. For genuine leads, that’s all fine and dandy. But if 9 out of 10 of your clicks on that ad are fake…well, you get the picture.
Must. Obey. The. Algorithms.
Ad platforms like Google are well aware of the problems with display ad fraud.
They aren’t very helpful though, so here’s some guidance on what’s regarded to be the optimal size for an ad (basically, don’t go rogue.)
Here are the top five banner ad sizes according to popularity
- 250 x 250 square
- 200 x 200 small square
- 468 x 60 banner.
- 728 x 90 leaderboard
- 300 x 250 inline rectangle
And the top banner ad sizes according to performance:
- 300 x 250 medium rectangle
- 336 x 280 large rectangle
- 728 x 90 leaderboard
- 300 x 600 half-page or large skyscraper
- 320 x 50 mobile leaderboard
Special Mention: Adobe Creative Cloud Express (formerly Adobe Spark)
With so many options, it can be daunting to know where to start. But one tool that’s really useful to get you going is Adobe Creative Cloud Express, which has a ton of templates for social content, logos and more.
For example, if you’re struggling with creating eye-catching Instagram stories, you can find templates, upload your photos or be inspired by something from their library of icons, images and graphics.
There’s also a really cool ad maker, with loads of high-quality images and fonts to choose from so you can customize the design of your ad to fit your brand style.
Courtesy of the kids, I’ve got lots of ‘I was brave today’ stickers plastered to my laptop from when they last went to the dentist, with a smattering of smiley face stickers from a sticker book. It always gets a funny look when I’m working out and about. But I’m tempted to let them decorate the rest of the space with stickers I actually like from the sticker maker feature, which has got some very cool templates to select from.
What You Can Do
One approach to consider is making use of a variety of ad channels. Different platforms have different requirements for ad size, so make sure to do your research before putting your ads together.
Also, think about using display ads for retargeting campaigns. That’s one area where they’re particularly strong, especially if you know a company that gives away its 60,000-strong Display Exclusions list for free to help you filter out invalid traffic and focus on your target audience.
Ahem. Which you can do. Here.