In a breakthrough analysis by Harvard Business Review (HBR), researchers concluded what most seasoned marketers already knew: when it comes to achieving key marketing objectives, creativity matters. It matters not only in grabbing the attention of prospective customers but also in a host of other demonstrable marketing results. And it matters in virtually every aspect of marketing strategy—from website design to social media marketing, content creation and of course digital marketing display ads.
What makes a design creative?
Every marketing campaign is different, targeted to different audiences and with different objectives. Given those differences, there’s no silver bullet that will transform run-of-the-mill designs into creative ones.
That said, what effective digital marketing display ads have in common is that they resonate with their audience in a way that conveys trust, authority, relevance, and loyalty, something that mediocre ads don’t. Said differently, the display ads that achieve key marketing objectives follow several best practice strategies, including the following 6:
1. They have the right structure
Effective display ads are designed leveraging key structural elements, including the following:
- They’re easily distinguishable from normal web content, with clearly defined borders
- They have flexible sizing that aligns with the ad sizes permitted by channels like Google
- They contain fundamental elements, including logo (or company name), value proposition, visual representation of your service and a call to action (CTA) button
2. They effectively leverage color
The colors in your design should never be chosen randomly—they should capture the attention of your audience and convey the emotion you’re attempting to evoke, and they should reinforce your brand (when you think Coke, in other words, you automatically think red). In addition, you should use color with your audience in mind. Studies show for example that the best colors for men are blue and green, while women prefer blue and purple. Finally, the colors you use should reflect your industry (for example, the best colors for the communications industry are blue and black).
3. They make use of the right typography
First, the typography in display ads must be clear and legible—your ad won’t go very far, even with stunning visuals, if your audience can’t easily read what you’re saying. Second, typeface matters. Don’t muddy up ads with a multitude of different typefaces—this confuses people and suggests disorganization. Using a small number of complementary typefaces is more powerful. Third, choose a font that matches the effect you’re trying to achieve—for example, a classic serif font might suggest creativity or artistic prowess.
4. They’re simple
Your display ad footprint is relatively small and most people who see your ad only spend a few seconds looking at it, so it’s important to keep your copy to a minimum and concepts simple and easily understandable. Use Google’s “three C’s” as your guiding principle—the best display ads are compelling, concise and clear. Make sure in particular that both your CTA and value proposition are brief and immediately grab the attention of your audience.
5. They use images strategically
The images you use should serve a clear, strategic purpose and never be random or gratuitous. They’re not in your ad simply to fill up space, but rather to serve a purpose that advances your marketing objectives. You could, for example, use images to highlight the value of your product or make your ad more eye-catching or spark viewer interest. At the same time, the images you use should always complement rather than distract viewers from your core message.
6. They’re dynamic
Dynamic as opposed to static ads automatically change to personalize ad content for each viewer. In other words, dynamic ads deliver content that is more relevant and valuable than their static counterparts. They offer designers and marketers key benefits. For example, dynamic ads tend to decrease ad spend and increase ROI (because of increased ad engagement). They also, again because they’re personalized, boost conversion rates and purchase intent. Finally, dynamic ads deliver dramatically increased relevancy.
Following these best practices will make your display ads more effective and help you achieve your marketing goals. Although integrating effective creative elements into your ads isn’t a slam dunk, those principles are basic and straightforward. To get the most out of your ads, make sure your CTA and value proposition are the most prominent elements, choose a relatively simple color palette that aligns with your brand and goals, use a smart, hierarchical typography structure, keep it simple, use custom graphics and images that most effectively capture the attention of your audience and choose dynamic ads over static ones.