Display advertising is a very useful tactic in this day and age. However, many organizations struggle to design effective display ads. With stiff competition, not to mention companies having dedicated display ad teams, it’s challenging to make it over the hump.

Before looking at how to design the best display ads, let’s first talk about what they are and where they can be found.

What Is Display Advertising?

Display advertising is a form of advertising used to attract an audience to take a certain action. It is a push advertising tactic that displays product or service information based on the needs and/or concerns of a specific demographic, psychographic, and/or geographic audience. In comparison, paid search ads are a form of “pull” advertising. This means that paid search ads only appear when someone is already searching for your services or products online.

Different from paid search ads, who are text-based without any graphics or visuals, display ads typically have text, pictures, logos, videos, and/or other visuals to attract an audience.

Display ads are used to build awareness of products and services. In addition, they guide the target audience through the purchase funnel by advertising relevant information to help make a buying decision. Finally, they enable businesses to reengage with their audience after they visited their website and did not take the desired action.

Where to find Display Ads?

Display ads can appear on social media sites, blogs, news websites, and anywhere else on the internet. Here is more information about where display ads can appear:

Social Media

Display ads come in many different forms on social media channels. While all social media platforms have different layouts and features, social display ads fit into those parameters to provide a better user experience.

These ads can appear as short-form Twitter posts, visually-focused Instagram posts, text-heavy Facebook posts, and much more. 


Display ads are also found throughout many websites. These advertisements are typically used as banner ads found at the top of site content or along the side of the page. Many different targeting paraments are used to choose which ads appear on the screen. Search history, interests, age, and location all play a role in which display ads appear for an internet user.

To help you succeed in your display advertising efforts, there are some display ads best practices to consider. Keep reading to learn about a few very important display ad design tips.

Have Visual Consistency Between Ad and Landing Page

display advertising best practicesMany display ads commit the sin of confusing the audience. A consumer may see an enticing ad, so they click on it. Then, they arrive at a landing page that has no visual or messaging consistency with the ad that brought them there in the first place. In this instance, they may not even see the offer they clicked on initially.

The display ad above provides an excellent example of consistency between the ad and the click destination. Initially, the product advertised is front and center, while displaying the promised discount. Even better, an almost identical image from the ad can be seen in the top banner header. On a more subtle note, the display ad design also includes a similar color scheme and font type.

All of these elements create an experience that is invisible yet satisfying, which can ultimately lead to more conversations.

The Best Display Ads Use Color to Draw Attention

best display adsHuman eyes evolved the ability to detect color since it tells us important information about the world around us. Some researchers believe we developed color vision through natural selection in an effort to distinguish ripe fruit from rotten fruit.

In the same way, our eyes use color signals to determine if a brand or offer is ripe enough for our business. Professional-looking color palettes draw the eye, especially when used in an effective color scheme.

To see an excellent application of a single-colored design, look at the display ads example above. The deep turquoise hue looks appealing to our eyes and certainly stands out. Yet, it isn’t oversaturated to the point where it “bleeds” off the screen.

More importantly, the subject in the embedded video has a sweater of the same color. Our eyes are drawn to her since everything else in the video uses a similar palette.

Mastering combinations of colors can be difficult to achieve, but you can approach it like a science. The video below offers an excellent introduction to devising color schemes that look attractive and also create certain moods.

The Best Digital Display Ads Are About 80 Percent Empty

display ad designDisplay ad networks like Google Display Network (GDN) and Facebook used to have strict rules for the amount of text you could include in your ad. The old rule for GDN advertising, for example, was “no more than 20% text.”

Today, these rules appear more flexible — at least, in theory. In reality, Google or Facebook may decide to reject your ad or dramatically lower its chances of appearing.

Regardless of what they decide to do with your ads, following the 80/20 text rule is a solid best practice to consider. While you want enough visual white space for your messages to stand out, you also need to give your audience the ability to easily read the ad.

Also, maintaining 20% text encourages better display ad design. It will teach you how to maximize the clarity of your layout, while also condensing your messages. Both of these tactics can lead to more effective ads and more conversions overall.

The Best Banner Ads Have Simplified Layouts

display ad designIn many areas of advertising, less is more. This is very evident in banner ads, which is a form of display advertising.

Display ad designers should go beyond the text and focus more on the overall visual without any clutter. Ideally, your ad copy should frame the image, leading to a spacious, more visually appealing design.

Many ads introduce a fair amount of white space in order to make their messages 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 balances the elements effectively, without having a perfectly symmetrical layout. The end result is a great-looking ad. It allows our eyes to easily navigate it without excess noise.

Digital Display Ads Should Strike an Emotional Chord

display ad design: Image of womanThis image shows a person exuding a lot of complex emotions. Her hair is natural and free, showing she’s confident and nonconformist. She also wears a business suit, implying she’s successful in her endeavors. The subtle smile gives off sincere happiness. Her age and location also play a role, showing how she’s a young professional in a big city. This implies there is a world of opportunity in front of her.

People see themselves in images like this. Even if we don’t look anything like the subject, this imagery still has an impact. A photo like this ties to our emotions, which can make us feel empathy for the subject. 

The best display ads use similar imagery that ties to our emotions on a high level. The following two photos also elicit strong emotion:

best display ads display ad design

The intimacy is felt with both of these images but in different ways. Take a moment to reflect on how each photo makes you feel. Then, consider how these images could be used in digital display ads. Think about what ad copy you would choose to fit alongside these two pictures.

Segment Your Audience; Design for Personas

display ad design: two best display ads examplesOrganizations looking to improve conversions continually come to the conclusion that proper targeting is the answer. By segmenting your audience and targeting your ads towards the values of each group, you can better nurture them while also leading this audience further along the buyer cycle.

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

The display ad design on the left includes an image of a flier, communicating a professional, established brand. More importantly, the graphic 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, the brand appeals to an audience that’s less inclined to take risks. 

The second display ads example shows the mascot in a garden. Here, the plant growing metaphor signifies he’s working hard to help the startup grow. The color scheme used is more vibrant, which also appeals to the audience.

Try to Convert Before the Click

The best banner ads examples are advertisements that lead to more conversions rather than a high click-through-rate. The click-through rate (CTR), is a metric that measures how many users click on an ad based on the number of impressions.

display ad designBanner ads 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 can help, but it isn’t everything.

A great approach to take involves adding an indicator of value. If you can get the audience excited or interested in what they read in an ad, they make a click with a stronger intent to buy.

The two LG phone digital display ads above accomplish this in very different ways. On the left, you have an ad that shows a competitive differentiating feature, but it’s also represented as an opinion from a trusted review outlet. This copy provides the user with a key reason as to why this phone beats out competitors, and it also shows 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 special deal. This type of offer drives serious consideration before the click even happens.

Improve Display Ad Design and Gain More Conversions with an Experienced Digital Marketing Agency

After looking through some of the best banner ads examples and learning a few best practices, you should have more confidence in your display ad design efforts. However, in order to beat out the competition and gain more conversions, it’s smart to work with an experienced digital marketing agency.

If you struggle with display ad design, campaign management, or obtaining ROI, working with Symphonic Digital may be the perfect answer. Our knowledgeable team can provide you with end-to-end display marketing services to help meet goals and improve performance. 

To learn more about best practices for display ads, contact Symphonic Digital today to take your digital marketing campaigns to new heights.

White Label Display Advertising Solutions

Symphonic Digital can be your White Label Digital Marketing Agency partner. Let us become a pillar of your digital marketing strategy by providing display advertising results, all under your brand.