The 7 Deadly Sins of Display Advertising

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RICHARD TALBOT Head of Paid Search

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What makes a good display advert? Why do some adverts produce large numbers of conversions while others are ignored? When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of display advertising, there is no magic formula that will guarantee success every time, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to improve the effectiveness of your advertising. By eliminating these seven ‘sins’ from your adverts, you can remove the most common mistakes that lead to an advert failing. Remember content is king; customers are interested in what your advert can do for them, so create great adverts and you will see the results your business needs.

1. Are you promoting irrelevant content?

You could have the best display advertisement possible but no-one is going to click on it if it isn’t relevant to them. If you are planning an advertising campaign, think about who your audience is and how that should affect where you place your ads. You will, no doubt, have different types of customer you want to attract to your website. Not all of these will respond to the same display ads, and you will probably not want to drive them all to the same landing page. Before starting your campaign think about which of your ads you will include in each campaign and which segments of your audience you want to display them to. Showing viewers adverts that don’t appeal to them reduces your conversion rate, and wastes your advertising budget. Spending time segmenting your audience before beginning your campaign will produce more effective results and make better use of your advertising budget.

2. Are you running static adverts?

One of the chief advantages of display advertising is the flexibility it offers. You can incorporate different media elements such as audio and video, as well as images. Putting these together offers you a lot of ways to get your message across to potential customers. If you are running dull, static adverts, you are missing out. Movement catches readers’ attention and draws their eyes for a few vital seconds while they are scanning the page. If your advert doesn’t contain any movement, it’s likely they will scan straight past without seeing it.

3. Are your adverts ugly or confusing?

While running static adverts is failing to make use of the features available in display advertising, it is possible to swing to the other extreme, producing ads that feature a confusing mass of colour or abstract photography. These may attract readers’ attention but unless the ad has a clear purpose, probably won’t lead to many conversions. This type of advert is more likely to confuse readers.

The human eye is drawn to strong, primary colours, with a contrasting dark background. Employing dull, muted colours, or a barrage of fast-moving colour changes will lead to your advert being ignored.

4. Is your advert ambiguous?

Few people spend a long time reading through a webpage. Generally they scan the page searching for specific information, moving quickly on if they don’t find what they want. When they come across your ad, they are searching for information. They have a need and they are hoping that what you are selling will meet it. If your advert doesn’t answer their questions, or if it takes too long to get to the point, they will give up and look elsewhere. As an advertiser you have only a few seconds to speak to your audience before they leave. If they can’t see how your product or service meets their need in that time, you have lost your opportunity. You can’t afford to be ambiguous or to leave their questions unanswered. It is your job to generate desire for your product so that they will click through to the next stage of the sales process. If your advert doesn’t do that you have failed.

5. Are your adverts difficult to read?

How easy are your adverts to read? Some advert designers are so keen to produce something that is clever, or artistic that they forget the primary purpose of the advert: to sell something. They produce adverts with unusual fonts that can’t be read easily, or with text that moves so fast the reader can’t take it in before it vanishes. Some adverts even resort to screaming at the reader using all capital letters that take a real effort to decipher. Don’t make it hard for your readers. Effective adverts are those that employ a consistent lower-case font style with the letters well spaced out. You must do everything you can to convey your message quickly and clearly. You don’t want to leave the reader in any doubt about what you are trying to say.

6. Did you explain your product benefits?

No-one buys a product unless they believe it is useful. This is a major problem for advertising in general, but especially for display advertising. Companies like to list product features. Read through any random ad and you will find references to how great their product is. This is the wrong approach, and one of the main reasons display advertising rarely produces the results it could.

If you want someone to buy your product, tell them how it will benefit them. Everyone wants to know ‘What’s in it for me’, so tell them. Explain how what you are offering will make their life better or easier. Give them an incentive to respond to the advert.

7. Did you forget the call to action?

You want your adverts to produce a response. That’s the entire point. If no-one clicks through to your landing page, or contacts your company, your campaign has failed. Not alone must your advert generate interest in your product, it should also clearly specify the next step. You can’t leave it to the customer to guess what they should do next; you have to spell it out. This could mean displaying contact information in the advert and asking them to call. Or it could mean asking the viewer to click through for more information or to purchase. Whatever you are selling you want a response from the viewer, but if you don’t ask, you are not likely to get one.

There’s no universal formula that can guarantee you display advertising success but by avoiding these common pitfalls, you can make sure your adverts are relevant to your audience, that readers clearly understand the benefits your product offers, and exactly what they should do next. This will start your advertising campaigns off on the right footing and ensure that you maximise the success of each of your marketing campaigns.

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RICHARD TALBOT Head of Paid Search

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An experienced digital marketer with 8+ years of industry experience, Richard has worked in client account management at both Google AdWords and Microsoft's Bing Ads in Dublin. He now leads the Paid Search & Display Advertising team at Tinderpoint delivering successful campaigns for a portfolio of diverse national and international clients across many industries.