Ben Crosby

In today’s vibrant, fast-paced online landscape, banner advertisements play a crucial role in capturing your target audience’s attention and driving brand awareness. While these display ads have been around for some time, they continue to serve as eye-catching digital billboards for web page visitors, allowing marketers to deliver targeted messages across strategic platforms.

But, with so many different types of banner ads — each with unique uses, characteristics and benefits — it can be difficult to understand your options and use them effectively. To help your next display campaign succeed, let’s walk through the ins and outs of banner advertising, from the different types to the best practices.

What Is a Banner Advertisement?

Before we dive into each distinct format, it’s important to understand the basics. A web banner ad is a type of rectangular display ad that combines engaging imagery with a short call to action (CTA). Usually placed in highly visible locations on popular websites, these banners aim to generate interest, click-throughs, leads and purchases.

Due to ad placement and banner size restrictions, the most common displays use horizontal images across the top or bottom of the screen (a leaderboard banner) or vertical images along the left or right side (skyscraper ads).

How Banner Advertising Works

In banner advertising, there are three primary parties at play: the host, the display ad network and you, the advertiser. For instance, if you’re using Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) as a display network, they will work as the middle-man, connecting you to specific hosts and using marketing metrics to determine where and how to display your ads.

Of course, it’s not as simple as asking nicely. Both the display ad network and the host site will charge fees for distributing advertisements. With Google Ads, this comes in the form of a real-time auction in which programmatic bidding pays for ad space during the time it takes for display advertisements to load. 

Display networks often use one of three methods to calculate the payment for host sites:

  • Pay per click: The advertiser pays for each click on the web banner (maximize clicks).
  • Pay per impression: The advertiser pays a rate for the number of users who see the banner (also known as CPM bidding).
  • Pay per acquisition: The advertiser pays each time a user clicks the banner and completes an action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase (maximize conversions or target CPA).

Ultimately, the payment approach you choose will depend on a variety of business factors, including your budget and your banner ad campaign goals.

8 Different Types of Banner Ads

Now that we understand the concept of banner ads, let’s move on to our next question: What are the different types of banners? 

Banner ads can be classified into 8 categories:

  1. Run of Site Banner Ad
  2. Pop-Up Banner Ad
  3. Expandable Ad
  4. Lightbox Banner Ad
  5. Static Banner Ad
  6. Animated Banner Ad
  7. Video Banner Ad
  8. Infographic Banner Ad

Let’s take a look at these different types of banners and how you can use them most effectively:

1. Run of Site Banner Ad

To start off, you can broadly think of banner ads as falling into two categories: run of site (ROS) and pop-up displays. ROS ads appear at the top, bottom or in the margins of a web page, and, as with pop-ups, they come in a wide variety of formats, from static images to moving graphics. However, advertisers often have less control over where the host displays their ROS banners. While this makes ad placement cheaper, it can also make the campaign less targeted.

2. Pop-Up Banner Ad

In contrast to ROS ads, which can lurk in the background, pop-up banners place themselves front and center on the host’s website. There are 4 main types that govern when the ad appears:

  1. Time-based banners pop up after a specified period of time on the web page.
  2. Scroll-triggered ads appear once the user scrolls to a certain point on the page.
  3. Click-activated banners display when the user clicks a specific button or area.
  4. Exit-intent pop-ups catch the user with a final message before they close a page.

While the pop-up feature is an excellent way to attract your target audience’s attention, it can also be a nuisance for users who might be tempted to click away immediately if the banner doesn’t effectively incentivize an action.

3. Expandable Ad

Expandable banners are interactive rich media ads that can either be in a ROS or a pop-up display; in either case, users trigger an action that expands a smaller ad into a larger display size on the current site. For example, marketers can configure an expandable banner to increase in size after a user reaches a specific area on the web page. But, similar to pop-ups, these ads can cause a disruptive experience if advertisers aren’t tactful. On the other hand, expanding a banner to provide prospects with more information can be a great way to cut through the noise.

4. Lightbox Banner Ad

A Lightbox banner advertisement is a type of Google display ad that also requires users to interact with it. Unlike expanding banner ads, however, Lightbox displays can initiate full-screen content that uses text, graphics, video and audio to maximize engagement. To avoid users unintentionally triggering the full-screen Lightbox ad, marketers often configure these displays to start only once a user hovers over a specified region for a given period of time (usually a few seconds).

5. Static Banner Ad

Moving into the aesthetic differences between banners, a static ad is the most bare-bones version of a display advertisement. These standard banners consist of a single image with a short bit of text overlaid. Although commonly used, static banners can easily blend into a web page’s background without an engaging visual or compelling CTA.

6. Animated Banner Ad

Many advertisers choose to include movement in their banner ads to catch users’ eyes. Animated display ads use text, GIFs, video and even audio to grab the audience’s attention. More than that, motion graphics can help explain complex processes, products or services in a concise, easily consumable way, increasing engagement and educating your audience. At the same time, jumpy or choppy movements can stand out as annoying, so it’s important to use high-quality visuals for any animated banner ad.

7. Video Banner Ad

While you might think video content only works on social media and streaming platforms, it can also be an effective way to boost engagement in your next banner ad campaign. Similar to an animated banner, a video ad uses audio-visual communication to engage readers with a specific message. This ad format can also work as a ROS, pop-up or Lightbox display to add further interactivity and prevent it from playing at unwanted times.

8. Infographic Banner Ad

Infographic banner ads aren’t as common as other types, but they can be just as effective. By creating a vibrant visual that educates your audience on a specific topic or promotion, you can build brand authority while fostering the interest that eventually leads to sales. Plus, the rectangular banner sizes provide the ideal canvas for a wide range of infographic displays.

How To Use Banner Advertisements

As one of the earliest forms of online advertising, banners have a variety of applications for marketers. Broadly speaking, these ads are used to generate impressions, clicks, leads and, ultimately, conversions. By placing these displays on high-traffic websites, advertisers can target specific audiences and increase brand awareness.

Let’s dive into some common use cases to better understand how to leverage banner ads in your display campaign:

Gated Content

One popular use for banner ads is to promote gated content, such as eBooks, white papers, guides and more. For example, a visitor might click away from a web page, but a pop-up banner appears, telling them about an exciting new eBook with industry insights. When readers click the display ad, it takes them to a landing page on your site where they fill out a form with contact information to download the content. 

Guiding Prospects

Marketers can also utilize banner ads to guide potential customers to specific landing pages. Let’s say you want to promote your extensive webinar library featuring leading experts from within the company. A targeted banner ad lets you direct prospects to your webinar recordings where they can get an in-depth look at the latest industry trends or your company’s specific product offerings. 

Free Trial or Demo

If your company offers a free test drive of a product, banner advertising gives you another opportunity to boost signups. After all, seeing “free” in a CTA is sure to drive engagement or, at the very least, grab the reader’s attention for a moment. When a potential customer clicks the banner to receive their free trial or live demo, you’ve just made another conversion and added another name to your mailing list.

Promotional Offers

Whether you’re selling a physical product, software solution or service, promotional banners are an excellent way to get the word out about a new deal. While you might not necessarily have “sales” on your products, you could still offer a free upgrade, feature or access to content. You can even use an expandable banner to provide more details on the promotion when a prospect hovers over the ad, including deal specifications and disclaimers.

Relevant Reminders

In the same vein as promotional offers, marketers can use reminder ads to notify readers of a deal’s approaching deadline. This can create a sense of urgency or simply keep your brand at the top of readers’ minds. Pop-up reminders are perfectly suited for this, providing a friendly reminder when the user triggers the ad.

The Pros and Cons of Using Banner Ads

As with any online advertising channel, banner ads have a range of benefits and drawbacks, so harnessing their power effectively requires a keen understanding of these strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s start by looking at the pros of banner ads:

  • You maintain control over the websites you advertise on.
  • They diversify your digital advertising methods and channels.
  • It’s relatively cost-effective with various payment models to suit your needs.
  • They increase brand engagement by delivering personalized messages to your target audience.

While these are all great aspects of banners, this type of display advertising comes with one major downside: familiarity. 

Because banner ads have been around for decades, audiences have grown used to tuning them out into the visual background noise. As a result, the average click-through rate (CTR) of Google display ads sits at just under 0.5%, compared to over 3% for search ads. And this low CTR can translate to low conversion rates, especially if the ad is irrelevant or uncompelling.

So, what’s the solution?

Banner Advertising Best Practices

Crafting the perfect banner ad requires thoughtful planning and strategizing. The first step is deciding where you want to display your ads. This can mean approaching companies individually or using a display network to handle host discussions for you.

Once you have your distribution plan in place, it’s time to create the ad itself. Whether you design the banner yourself or use a professional graphic design team, here are a few things you should consider:

Minimal Text

Even with the largest banner ad size, there’s not enough space to include all the information you want. Any text on a banner ad should be brief, bold and engaging. Try to keep things as short as possible while still using targeted keywords. You can also put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself what phrases might stick out and appeal to their pain points.

Brand Imagery

Your company logo is an essential part of the banner imagery, allowing readers to immediately recognize who the ad is coming from. While you might want the message to be the banner’s focal point, your logo should still be visible. Contrasting it with the background image or color can help, but the ad should stay consistent with your brand style.

Vibrant Visuals

Colors, imagery and composition all have an effect on the audience and, therefore, your banner. Be sure to use bold, vibrant visuals that relate to your company or product. If your banner has a button, it should stand out with a different color from the surrounding graphics. And, while banner dimensions are relatively small, it’s crucial to use high-resolution images that read clearly, no matter the ad size.

Cohesive, Yet Eye-Catching

Outside of the banner itself, you should also consider how it will display on potential host sites. Following your brand aesthetics is important, but you don’t want the visuals to clash with the existing web page. When designing your ad, think about how the copy and visuals both work with and stand out from the host. For instance, if you want to publish your banner ad on a minimalistic website with a neutral color palette, consider adding a splash of color to your display for contrast.

A Call To Action

Finally, every effective banner ad has a call to action. This short, simple text directs the potential customer to take an action that continues their journey — whether it’s filling out a form to download an eBook or contacting a sales representative to negotiate a deal. Keep in mind the point above about minimizing words. Readers don’t want a paragraph telling them to click a button; the key is to deliver an engaging message that drives traffic or conversions in as few words as possible.

Building Better Banner Ads For Your Next Campaign

Banner display ads are a powerful tool that marketers can use to reach their target audience, boost engagement and generate leads. No matter the type or ad format you use, success lies in taking a strategic approach that accounts for factors like audience personalization and ad placement. By experimenting with your display ads and incorporating these best practices into your work, you can develop an effective campaign with exceptional results.