40k banners produced at clicktag, london.

Creating effective, super-powerful banner campaigns

A guideline to creative Online Advertising

Effective digital creative needs to engage, inform and inspire. These three simple requirements can be constructed into a creative narrative which becomes the simple 3 step process.

  1. Hook the user
  2. Deliver the message
  3. Give them a strong prompt to click

This approach to constructing digital creative banner narrative, when supported by excellence in design, copy, animation, timing, and the art of the call-to-action delivers high-yield response campaigns with better brand recall.

Hook and Engage

Users don’t visit web pages to see banners. Banners are peripheral content, so initially they need to hook the user’s attention. This should take 2-4 seconds and not include the primary message unless it’s a particularly strong offer that can be substantiated (e.g “FREE MONEY”…!). If ads begins with the key message and then moves on before being substantiated users miss the whole point of the banner and therefore will need the ad to loop to see it again (by which point their propensity to do so will be very low). More intelligent ads will intrigue the users initially and then deliver the payoff. Engage the user with a hook, before you sell to them.


Once the user has noticed the ad, the key message/offer should be delivered in a clear but engaging manner. If the ad is expanding, the user should be sufficiently enticed to open the ad. If the ad is standard- then hit the user with a proposition that is strong enough to get them to the call to action frame. Inform the user of the message. You will have the opportunity to speak to your user for around 10 seconds- so use the flow of this creative narrative and imagine being spoken to by the ad. Copy. Image. Timing.


Ok so, we’ve delivered our story or offer, now a DR banner’s job is to make the user click. The art of the call-to-action (CTA) is still one of the most challenging. “Click Here” has evolved to include dynamic copy, more oblique prompts and the design of the button is every designers biggest challenge. CTAs should summarise the offer and inspire the user to click. Thats it. That’s the job of the humble DR banner.

Where Rich media is used to deliver site content or sign-up functionality then CTAs become interactive content funnels that guide the users all the way to the sign-up or point of interaction. “What do we want users to do in this ad and how do we make them, whilst giving them a good time” is the challenge of a rich media CTA.

This is the creative thinking approach behind all of our campaigns. But what can we identify as the “No-Nos”? Here’s just a few.

  • Banner creative should never just animate a press ad, or repurpose a TVC. Again, users didn’t come to that webpage to look at subliminal press ads (they won’t click) or view TV ads (they won’t watch them). So you need to work harder to make a banner work online.
  • Don’t shout the word “From” in an offer. “From £99" means nothing, and users know it. Dynamic copy is incredibly powerful, so use it where possible to present real and live offers.
  • Equally, substantiate any offer you make clearly. The integrity of an offer is more important than a bigger offer.
  • Don’t create an ad your mum couldn’t follow. Being too clever or beautiful might make a nice ad for the mantelpiece, but it won’t deliver response.

Love your banners.

This article was originally written by Jon Lefley as an internal email circulated (Oct 2011) to the staff at ClickTag—a Digital OLA studio he founded. Jon is now Digital Display Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, London.