We could spit out a hackneyed laundry list of how to use color, graphics, images and selective accents to make online ads that are engaging, relevant and well-timed.
But rather than induce catatonia with yet another design tutorial, we’ll attempt to answer this question from a broader perspective.
So here goes:
1. Keep It Simple
The wildly expressive creative type never wants this directive.
Ah, if only advertising were as gorgeous, dynamic and beautiful as a Pride Parade. Then writers and designers could openly and freely express themselves. But the sad truth in advertising is that when everything stands out, nothing stands out. As it turns out, simple advertisements are just easier to understand than those that are complex.
So think more Lenny from Of Mice and Men, and less Pythagoras from…um, his theorem.
Ease up on the excess verbiage. Ads should be designed to ultimately drive traffic to other places - namely one’s website where verbosity rules. When viewers are given TMI in a short amount of time, they can become disinterested, distracted, unable to later recall the information, and possibly develop a need to draw blood.
Plus, if there’s too much stuff gumming up the works - and not just excess content, but also lots of showy images - the page will take a long time to load. People won’t like you if you do that.
2. Remember to Whom Your CTA Is Calling
You need a call to action (CTA). That much you know.
But for your CTA to be effective, it should be visually appealing and focused on value. Now obviously, what’s visually appealing and of value is going to differ vastly for a 24-year-old versus a 77-year-old. For example (and to completely stereotype), fidget spinners versus tchotchkes.
The fidget spinners will likely benefit from some flash and whiz-poppery, while the Hummel lovers will fare better with a more subdued CTA.
No matter the demographic though, the CTA should be brief and direct. Try to stick with fewer than five words. It should also be action-oriented. Be completely clear about what the click will accomplish. “Click here” isn’t gonna cut it. Especially if someone thinks he or she might get blown up.
But “download your free ebook” sets an expectation and expresses value.
3. Strike A Balance
Balance = harmony and order.
Imbalance = chaos and tension.
This isn't to say that a balanced composition is always better. Just as there are times when you benefit from the antics of an imbalanced friend (like when trying to steal a grocery cart), there are times in a campaign where it may be necessary to stress some chaos. But generally speaking, if stirring the pot with the giant spoon is not the goal, then balance is typically a good rule of thumb.
“Balanced” does not denote some boring symmetrical milquetoast design. There are many factors that contribute to balance. The main idea though is to create a harmonious and balanced experience for your customer.
4. Stay Visually Consistent
A designer may pour his or her soul into crafting the perfect ad, only to be reminded (once again) that most people are only going to casually glance at it for a few seconds. If at all. Yes, it’s demoralizing at times.
So the talented online ad designer has learned to employ a specific image or display repeatedly across numerous ads and exposures. It’s a way of taking those numerous short term viewings and connecting them. This creates visual consistency to help move the message from short-term to long-term memory, while simultaneously giving the designer’s life a purpose. Again.
And it’s not just images. Taglines need to be a part of that visual consistency too. Part of what makes this approach so effective is that even if the ad changes in some way, consumers will still identify the brand with the tagline and imagery that’s been ever so gently and lovingly hammered into their consciousness.
In A Nutshell?
People are always going to process visuals and read subheads long before they get to the body text. That’s because people are busy. And simple.
So determine the relative importance of the various areas of content in your message. Give your CTA precedence. Then make use of simplicity, consistency and balance (along with the color, graphics, images and selective accents we mentioned in the first paragraph) to allow the viewer to scan the page and get drawn in by the most important information.
If you’re doing it well, or if you’re lucky, they’ll be interested enough to read the entire text. From there, they’ll hit your website.
Then you’ll just need to be sure you’ve got stellar content there…