Some companies just can’t seem to get a handle on their display ad design. Granted, they are competing with some heavy hitting brands out there. But even a small business can create an engaging ad that not only leads to clicks, but true conversions.

Good ad design separates the companies that succeed in getting conversions versus those that waste money on clicks. Having a higher rate of conversions not only boosts revenue but also lowers your cost per conversion, improving your marketing ROI overall.

To help you realize these gains, you can use the following display ad design best practices and tips.

Have Visual Consistency Between Ad and Landing Page

display ad designMany display ads commit the sin of confusing the audience. A consumer might see an ad that entices them, and they click on it. Then, they arrive at a landing page that has no visual or messaging consistency with the ad at all.

Worse, they may not even see the offer they clicked on initially.

This display ad above provides an excellent example of consistency between the ad and the click destination. Firstly, the product advertised is front and center, bearing the promised discount. Even better, an almost identical image from the ad can be seen in the top header banner. More subtly, the ad uses a similar color scheme and font type.

All of these elements create an experience that is invisible yet satisfying. People also sorely miss these elements when they feel deceived by ads.

Use Appealing Colors That Draw Attention

display ad designHuman eyes evolved the ability to detect color because it tells us important information about the world. Some researchers think we developed color vision through natural selection because ripe fruit has different hues.

In the same way, our eyes can tell if a brand or offer is ripe for our business through color signals. Professional-looking color palettes draw the eye, especially when used in a well-conceived color scheme.

As an example of excellent use of a single color, look at the ad above. This deep turquoise looks appealing to our eyes, and it stands out. Yet, it isn’t oversaturated to the point where it “bleeds” off the screen.

Even more importantly, the subject in the embedded video has a sweater of the same color. It draws our eyes to her since everything else in the video uses a neutral palette.

Mastering combinations of colors can be trickier. But you can approach it like a science. The video below offers an excellent introduction to devising color schemes that look attractive while creating certain moods.

Shoot for 80% of Space Without Text

display ad designDisplay ad networks like GDN and Facebook used to have hard-and-fast rules for the amount of text you could have on your ad. The old rule was “no more than 20% text.”

Now, they appear more flexible — at least, in theory. In reality, they may decide to reject your ad or dramatically lower its chances of appearing.

Regardless of whether you are being held to the standard or not, following the 80/20 rule with text enforces good practice. You want enough visual white space for your messages to stand out. You also need your audience to actually be able to read the ad.

Also, holding yourself to 20% text encourages you to use better design. You will learn how to maximize the clarity of your layout while condensing your messages. Both lead to more effective ads.

Reduce Visual Clutter with Simple, Elegant Layouts

display ad designGoing beyond text, your ad should have a general visual clarity without clutter. Ideally, your ad copy frames images in a spacious and visually appealing way.

Many ads introduce a fair amount of white space in order to make their messaging more clear. The ad below from Balsam Hill communicates its message succinctly while still providing enough visual elements to draw the eye.

More importantly, the ad compartmentalizes its elements for a balanced — but not perfectly symmetrical — layout. The result is a great-looking ad. Our eyes easily navigate it, and it avoids excess noise.

Strike an Emotional Chord with Your Images

display ad designDisplay ads should play up the “display” part. Imagery is key towards not just getting attention, but communicating messages that help convert.

People-centered images generally communicate better and elicit positive sentiment. Take a look at the stock photo below for an example.

Here, we see a person exuding a lot of complex emotions. Her hair is natural and free, so she’s confident and nonconformist. Yet, she wears a business suit, implying she’s on her way toward success and respect. A subtle smile implies sincere happiness. She’s also young and in a big city, which implies a world of opportunity.

People see themselves in images like these, even if we don’t look anything like the subject. Natural human empathy instinctively compels us to tell a story about the person and assign them personality traits.

Using familiar situations can also elicit strong emotion. Take the following two campfire photos as an example.

display ad design display ad design

They both feel intimate, but in very different ways. Take a moment to reflect on how each makes you feel. Then, consider how choosing one might affect an ad using the same copy but two image variants.

Segment Your Audience, and Design for Personas

display ad designCompanies that want to improve conversions continually come to the conclusion that proper targeting is the answer. By segmenting your audiences and targeting your ads towards each segment’s values, you can nurture them more hastily further into your buy cycle.

Remember that segmenting is not just messaging, but also context and imagery. The Facebook ads from AdEspresso below not only use different copy, they also have different connotations.

The agency one uses an image of a flier, communicating a professional, established brand. More importantly, it uses a version of the famous “Hope” poster created by Shepard Fairey for Obama’s 2008 campaign. By recycling proven ideas in an effective way, they help appeal to marketing execs less inclined towards taking risks.

The startup one has the mascot instead in a garden. Here, he is being active and using “elbow grease” to help the startup grow in the form of a plant metaphor. The color scheme is also a lot more vibrant, something that may appeal to creative types.

Try to Convert Before the Click

display ad designAds with a high CTR but a low rate of conversion eat through your budget like nothing else. Enforcing consistency between the ad and click destination helps, but it isn’t everything.

Often, what people need instead is some sort of indicator of value. If you can get them excited or interested in what they read on the ad, they click with a stronger intent to buy.

The two LG phone ads above accomplish this in very different ways. On the left, you have not only a competitive differentiating feature, but it’s also represented as an opinion from a trusted review outlet. This copy provides both a USP and a form of social proof.

On the right, you have a compelling offer for something free. If you don’t buy the phone, you miss out on the free thing! That’s the sort of offer that drives serious consideration even before the click.

Improve Your Display Ad Design and Conversion Performance with an Experienced Digital Marketing Agency

All of the best practices above may be easy to grasp, but they’re hard to master. If you struggle with display ad design, campaign management, or obtaining ROI, working with an established digital marketing agency may be the answer.

Symphonic Digital can provide you with end-to-end display marketing services to help you meet your goals and improve performance. Contact us today to find out how we can turn your display ad success around.

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