How to do a banner ad – PART 2
This is the second part of my ‘How to do a banner ad’ trilogy. I’m assuming that you devoured my last post on how to approach a brief for doing banners, so now it’s time to get you ready for coming up with concepts. Please give me feedback if you disagree with any of this or have any better advice to share.
Keep it short and simple
People don’t hang around much on the internet. They close windows if they’re not loading fast enough and they’ll instantly click away from pages if they don’t meet expectations. And your banner is somewhere on the periphery of what they’re actually there to look at. So you need to be quick.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau recommends no more than 15 seconds from start to finish (see what they have to say here). I’d recommend even less, if you can. One of the rules I use is to try to get the full storyboard into no more than 5 frames (here are some storyboard templates, if you need them). I’m known for preaching that you need to remove stuff until you have the simplest expression of the idea – and there’s nowhere that’s more true than with banners.
Go to where the people are
Over the last few years I’ve had numerous debates with clients who insist that their banners lead people to their website. I personally think this is a big mistake. It may boost their site traffic slightly – but it’s a waste of an engaged customer.
If a customer tinkers with your banner, they’re doing so in an environment that they’ve chosen and that they feel comfortable in. If you ask them to visit a branded website where they know they are going to be fed propaganda and be sold at, you’ll lose the vast majority of them.
If it helps, you can have tabs that offer more information or allow people to download PDFs or let them sign up to a newsletter or whatever. Don’t make your audience go any further if they don’t have to.
On msn.com nobody can hear you scream
Most media owners don’t allow you to use sound in your banners without interaction. This affects video banners most. If you’re putting a TV ad in a banner it’s a bit like watching a commercial break with the sound down. And few TV ads would survive that indignity unaffected.
When it comes to normal banners, don’t use sound to attract people’s attention. You can, however, use sound when people interact with your banner, by clicking on it or even just rolling over it. This has led to something that I really, really hate – the tiny button on a video banner telling you to click for sound. Hideous!
You can never be too rich
Most of the time you’ll be working with standard banners and you’ll have to deal with the file size restrictions that go with the territory. But occasionally you’ll get to work with ‘rich media’. That means you’ll have a lot more to play with when a user interacts with your banner – so this is where you get the opportunity to really do your stuff.
There are a few different ways that rich media can work and it’s a good idea to make sure you understand exactly what you’re working with before you start. Don’t make any assumptions. These things can vary according to the media owner, the ad server and technical advances. However, here are the main rich media options with examples from the wonderful bannerblog – click on the images to see the banners in action:
If a user rolls over the banner (hopefully on purpose) the banner area can expand across the page. Some of these start pre-expanded and shrink after a few seconds. Some don’t. Here’s a good example:
But there’s something important to point out with expandables – you don’t have to use the whole area. In fact, often it’s better if you don’t. Here’s another expandable that shows how to make it work for you without just stretching the containing box to fit the expanded dimensions:
If you’ve got more than one banner on a page, they can communicate with each other. That means an interaction in one banner can affect what happens in the other one. Like this:
I’m not a great fan of these because I find them so intrusive. But they’re an option and you just have to do them sometimes. And here’s one that was done particularly well, in my opinion:
User initiated video
With this option, you usually get a bit more filesize so that you can use a little bit of video to attract people’s attention. After they’ve interacted with the banner, you can start streaming more video. Like this:
Talk to the server
To be honest, this is pretty much the same as what happens with user initiated video. In both of them, the banners communicate with the server – but I thought I should split them up because they can be quite different effects. You see, what you can do here is get the banner to send stuff back to your own server so that you can process the data and then fire back information to the banner.
This piece from Crispin Porter is like a mini version of Subservient Chicken. You enter a word, it sends your word back to the server and then the server fires back the appropriate video response. If you were to store all the processing and video responses in the banner it would be huge. This is a much more efficient way of doing it.
I hope this guide is helpful to some people. Please give me feedback so that I know if I’m giving you the right information – and tell me if there’s anything else you’d like me to cover. If you’re really more interested in seeing the different creative approaches to banners in a bit of cheat sheet sort of way, you’re in luck. That’s the third part of the trilogy – and it’s coming soon.