Whether you’re new to advertising or an expert veteran, making a great display ad is tough work. How do you make your message resonate in an ocean of advertising? What does it take to break through and actually catch someone’s attention? How do you make a great ad?

When you’re planning out your display advertising strategy, remember the wise words of David Ogilvy, one of the best advertising copywriters ever and founder of the legendary ad firm Ogilvy & Mather:

“Advertising is not an art form, it’s a medium for information, a message for a single purpose: to sell.”

If you’re spending money on advertising, it is highly likely that your goal is to sell something. That’s it! If all you do is remember that you’re trying to sell something, you’re off to a great start.

Your next question should follow something like: who are you making this ad for? Is your product or service for the whole world, or a specific type of person? The target of your ad is going to be somewhere on this spectrum, and part of creating a great ad is determining who it’s for.

Finally, let’s say you’ve figured out why you’re advertising and who you’re advertising to. Your final step is to determine what you want them to do. For example, do you want them to buy something on your site? Do you want them to sign up for something? This information will help you create the best ad possible for your goal.

Below are a few examples of ads I pulled randomly while online.

Tableau

Tableau is a software company that helps people and other companies look at and interpret data. The display ad above is a good example of a company providing me with something (a whitepaper) if I click on the ad.

Pros

  • Creates intrigue. Do you want to know what the 5 most influential visualizations of all time are, because I do!
  • Great CTA (call to action). All I have to do is click this button and I’ll get the white paper. Amazing.
  • Clean and distinctive. It uses bold colors, red and orange, that draw your eye and entice you to actually read the short copy.

Cons

  • Does not tell you what Tableau does. Is it a visualization company? It also doesn’t tell you what a visualization is.

CapitalOne

This ad is for a specific type of CapitalOne credit card: Spark Business. This ad is very straightforward in that it provides the CapitalOne logo, the name and image of the card itself, and the main value proposition: “Unlimited 2% cash back.”

Pros

  • With one quick glance, you know it’s for a credit card because there’s an image of a credit card.
  • There’s a distinct button with a call to action on it: “Learn more.”

Cons

  • Is it only for small businesses? The copy on the credit card suggests it’s a business card.

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign provides email, messaging, automation, and other services to small businesses to help them grow.

Pros

  • “Go beyond marketing automation” does have a twinge of intrigue.
  • The graph leads you to believe this company has something to do with analytics.

Cons

  • What is this for? What are they selling? The product they are advertising is unclear at best.
  • The CTA isn’t very compelling: “Visit Site.” Why should I visit the site? What happens when I visit the site?
  • The image could connect with the ad itself a little better. As it is, it makes the viewer unsure of what to do next.

The New York Times

I think we’re all aware of The New York Times. They are a newspaper.

Pros

  • The color here does a good job of catching the eye.
  • The timeliness of the ad instills a sense of urgency.
  • The logo at the top of the ad informs you immediately who the ad is for.

Cons

  • There’s a lot of small text, making the purpose of the ad confusing. As someone getting the ad, why use the term “Deadline Sale”? That seems like an internal phrase that’s out of place here.
  • The CTA is “See my options.” This sounds confusing because you don’t know what you’re getting into. “Sign up now!” or “Start for $1” or “Get the Sale” would have been better.

Make Your Next Display Ad Great

Based on the above ads, we can provide you an easy checklist for ensuring your display ads are consistent, engaging, and (most importantly) drive traffic:

  • Make sure your company and logo are obvious and large so that people know the ad is yours.
  • Choose an eye-catching color that draws attention.
  • Make sure your CTA is clear and concise so that viewers know exactly what will happen if they click it.
  • Provide something if you can. Whether it’s a whitepaper or an offer, let viewers know they’re getting something.
  • Use graphics that help illustrate what you’re advertising.

Display ads can be excellent tools for growing your business, adding contacts to your recipient list, and driving revenue. To learn more about how Twilio SendGrid can help you with your next display ad campaign, sign up for SendGrid Ads.



Ben Blackmer
Ben Blackmer is the Senior Product Marketing Manager on SendGrid Ads. Ben started out working for digital advertising agencies in Chicago, IL and Durham, NC before founding Are You A Human, an advertising technology firm focused on human verification online. He has run advertising programs for companies like Macy’s, Kellogg’s, and Qwest Communications. Ben holds degrees in Economics from NYU and an MBA from the University of Michigan.