At the dawn of the digital advertising evolution, when first display ads only started to appear on the Internet, it was no sweat to grab user attention with catching creative. Nowadays, when the average consumer sees over 5000 ads daily, this task turned into almost an impossible mission. Today advertisers should carefully test and consider every detail of their display advertising creative, as each of them can play a defining role in getting a decent ROI on display ads.

Everything can play a decisive role - display ad sizes, structure, colors, advertising frequency. The whole process of creative development and tuning involves lots of subtleties that are vital for building a successful creative strategy for your display campaign. In this article, we are going to explore some of the best advertising ideas for a digital display campaign. Let’s see the best display ad examples to help you get effective campaigns that break through the noise.

What is a display ad?

Display ad is any advertising unit that communicates with the user through image, sound, video, text or the combination of all aforementioned elements. This way it can be banner ad, social media ad, native, and even video in general. Still, in most cases when someone says display ad, they refer to static banner ads.

Display ad in very simplified terms is a banner ad served on various websites on a per-impression or pay-per-click basis. Display ad units are usually served contextually, which means that they are targeted according to the cookies, search queries, or other criteria. Before we see display ads examples let’s connect the dots using a picture.

display ad ypes

Contextual search ads

Contextual search ads appear at the search engines when the user enters a particular term in the search. These are typically Google display ads that help advertisers find customers through the targeted keywords. Advertisers use targeted options of Google display network to discover the most popular keywords that users use while searching for products or services and then incorporate them into targeted campaigns.

If the user's search terms match those of the Google display ad, the unit appears at the top of the search result page.

search display ad

Apart from search, Google ads can be also served programmatically, they are targeted according to the myriads of targeting criteria, not only search terms. Such a Google display ad typically looks like a banner ad and is placed on the website dynamically. Below you can see Google display ad examples that take into account user data and adjust to each user individually. While Google display ad example on the left features the ad that corresponds to the website’s thematics (tourism), the one on the right features automation solutions.

display ad google

Contextual display ads are those ads that are placed on the website dynamically and in the majority of cases programmatically. This means that every new user who enters the website or app sees a unique ad unit that was generated specifically for them. How?

Every day as customers we search for certain products on the Internet, we also browse through blogs that match our interests, visit various social media, read the news, and surf the web for advice. All these digital footprints are getting collected by search engines and websites via cookies. Location, browser data, behavioral patterns, history of visits, purchases, and data about many other actions is then used by advertising algorithms in order to define what kind of display ad you should see.

This is how advertisers ensure effective display experience - through the application of smart media-buying algorithms that ensure that this or that ad unit may be interesting or useful to a particular user. If you want to dig deeper into how these algorithms work, first of all, read about programmatic advertising and programmatic ecosystem. To illustrate the principle of work in simple words we prepared 2 simple display ads examples below.

Example 1: A woman in her 40th is trying to lose weight. Every day she searches the Internet for information on issues related to weight loss, reviews posts on social media, and regularly updates herself on the medical news in the area.

Based on her user data, advertising algorithms will select potentially interesting display ad units of services and products related to weight loss. These display ads will be located on various sites: a banner ad about inexpensive slimming diet supplementary, a video ad about fitness courses, a text-graphic block with a photo of the newly opened gym in the area where she lives, etc.

Example 2: A 22 y.o student wants to enter the university but needs to learn English first. Everyday uses apps like Duolingo, talks to his internet friends to practice English, and visits blogs to find advanced language learning techniques.

Based on his user digital profile, advertising algorithms will choose potentially suitable video, native or banner ads that promote English courses. Knowing his age the algorithms will also assume that a youngster should be offered courses with discounts since students typically can’t afford expensive services or products. Plus, if an advertiser wants to find nearby customers the best way to get them will be employing geotargeting mobile technologies. Below you can see how to make it with work for display ad examples that we are going to review today.

rich media ad tergeting

7 Main purposes of display ads

A single display ad can be used by marketers and advertisers for a variety of reasons and campaign types, branding and performance advertising included. The digital marketing purposes that you can achieve with them will boil down to the following 7:

  1. increase brand awareness and recall;
  2. draw attention to current offers, events, promotions, new products in stock;
  3. build positive company's image;
  4. increase the site exposure and increase traffic to the site;
  5. find and attract new audiences that will be interested in the company's products and services;
  6. create a demand for certain products or services;
  7. increase sales.

As was mentioned earlier, usually when we say ‘display ad’ we automatically imagine banners, however, the concept of display ads is somewhat broader and encapsulates video, text, and other types of media elements. So, let’s review the most common banner display ad examples.

  • Banner ads - those are static or animated images of various sizes, most often containing text, sometimes sound. Disclosing all the promo information to the user is not the main task of the banner, instead, the main purpose of it is to engage the user and hook them in to click on the unit to discover more or make a purchase.

Depending on the media included in the ad unit, all banners can be divided into the following categories:

  • Static banner with text - the banner that can appear at the top, middle, and at the bottom of the web page. It doesn’t contain media or interactive elements, only text and links.
  • Rich media banners - ads that unfold on top of the content of the page, often accompanied by audio and video.
  • Expandable banner - two in one banner that expands upon click or interaction. The user sees a static or moving info image of small size, which is expanded by 100%, typically when they hover the cursor over it. After this action, the rest of the content expands.
  • Pop-under banner - opens in a separate browser window, sometimes on top of the current page. The concept of it is to stay in contact with the user even after they close the webpage.

Banner ads are the most widespread type of display ads, what’s also particular - they are universal because they are supported by virtually any ad platform. Their characteristics, width, height, and types may vary depending on the ecosystem they are served at. They are also considered to be the most affordable of all formats, especially when served in small sizes. Find popular banner ad examples with sizes and resolutions on banner ad formats page.

Video ads - Video ads are those ad units that are posted on major video hosting services (youtube, vimeo), entertainment, or news portals. Typically it is a short commercial that lasts up to 15 seconds and features a CTA at the end that has links that lead the user to the landing page.

  • Video ads can be divided into the following categories:
  • Pre-rolls
  • Mid-roll and post-roll
  • Overlay

Specifics of the pre-roll advertising as well as mid-roll and post-roll ads we’ve discussed in the previous article. In a nutshell, pre-rolls appear before the video content, mid-rolls at the middle, and post-rolls at the end.

Overlay video ads consist of image or text blocks that appear at the bottom of the playing video and remain on the screen till the video ends.

The easiest way to get these ads work for you is to feature your product or service in detail. No other format can do it like video ads - exactly video can give a potential customer the sense of how your service or product works. Plus, no other format can describe the characteristics so precisely. If you want to see the video display advertising examples, check out how our video ad formats can work for you.

Native ads - ad units that look organically on a website since they merge with the rest of the website-s content in terms of design and functions. As well they typically deliver useful information along with an advertising message, which can include text, images, and videos.

  • Example 1: Sponsored post. In the DIY section of your favorite blog, you find an article on how to knit a sweater with a complete and detailed guide regarding each step. The information is very useful for DIY fans you know so you like the article and share it with your friends who also like knitting. At the end of such posts, you can find a button or a link that leads you to the shop where you can buy the knitting tools or materials. Such posts are educational and useful for readers, yet it also effectively promotes knitting products.
  • Example 2: Recommendation widget. When reading the article you can notice that there are recommendation blocks at the bottom (or at the sidebar). Those recommendation blocks feature the news that is very similar or somehow related to the subject of the article you’ve just read. As soon as you click on one of those recommendation blocks you are getting redirected to another web source the landing page of which contains promotional materials or a sponsored post.

Native ads are believed to be the least intrusive formats since they are not distracting or flashy, they look like the rest of the page content. It can take the form of a sponsored post, a recommendation widget, or other unit and is always marked with an "advertising" tag. Want to see how the rest of the native display ad examples look like? Check out how you can start with our native ad formats.

Benefits of display advertising

Before we dive into practice, let us first start with some important questions - why use display advertising? In 2020 more than $68 billion will be spent on digital display ads in the US and each year this number will be growing. In fact, display advertising remains to be one of the most widely used forms of online advertising throughout the last decades. Why is it so and what is one of the major benefits of display ads?

The reach provided by display advertising is clearly one of its biggest assets - you can show your display advertising creative to millions of people worldwide because the format is universal and is supported by almost all ad platforms. One can find an audience for almost any product or service from any business niche. The huge variety of display ad sizes and formats allows you to create a perfectly resonating message for your target audience.

Plenty of targeting solutions bring in the major benefits of display ads. With their help, marketers can achieve a wide range of business goals from brand awareness to increased conversions and revenue. For instance, one can opt for behavioral targeting if they have enough data or focus on contextual targeting, especially if their target market belongs to the areas within GDPR influence.

Display ads best practices

The benefits of display advertising are countless, but it is only possible to explore their full potential with an effective creative strategy for your display campaign. The importance of well-designed display creative is often overlooked, while in practice the creative often defines the user’s first impression about your brand.

In the meantime, surveys confirm that for 50% of companies the creative design is a crucial element of success. Clearly, there’s no need to focus all of your efforts on design, but with some effort and high-quality creative, display advertising can become a real game-changer for your business. Here are some tips on how to create the best display ads:

Come up with a clear message

It is especially common among advertisers to use display ad campaigns on the stages of awareness and consideration - when potential customers haven’t made a decision about what product or service they need to buy. Thus, display ads will be especially beneficial for branding campaigns, and in branding campaigns, a lot will depend on the right messaging.

Start with the precise intention - what is it that you want to communicate to your audience? What is your offer and how is it different from competitors? The message should emphasize your unique proposition in a clear and simple manner. Next, look through your branding strategy and make sure your message is consistent with the overall image of your company.

It should also match the webpage where the users are landing after encountering your ad. Finally, ensure your call-to-action also underlines the unique benefits of your offers. Avoid click-bait and generic messaging, as this can annoy users and harm the first impression your business makes. If you want to learn the formula of best display ads examples see how the messaging can be crafted below.

How to hook people in with the right messaging?

There are several ways to create a positive attitude towards the advertised product or service and engage people with your offer:

  • Offer a discount for sharing information about your brand on social media.
  • Underline the limited time when your product or service is available with a discount.
  • Offer additional bonuses for purchase
  • For B2B products offer a free trial (7 days - 1 month)
  • Offer free gifts to the first 10-100 buyers of the advertised product or service.
  • Offer free delivery and underline it in your display ad creative.
  • Appeal to the positive emotions that customers can get when purchasing your product or service.

display ad creative example

Create a functional display advertising unit

Long gone are the days when it was easy to allure potential customers with well-designed creative. Display advertising comes in a variety of forms, sizes, formats, and advertisers are fighting to make a stance because of the tightening competition.

On top of effective hooks and messaging you should also think through how to make your ad unit functional. A highly functional ad unit does not only cover the acute needs of the customer, it recognizes the true motives and feelings of people who buy this product or service. Exactly these qualities influence the behavior of the audience. Simply put, a person has not even decided what they look for and the functional ad unit already addresses this need.

display ad messaging

Such an offer lets you communicate the needs of your target audience effectively as it appeals to their needs. Plus, it provides you with additional opportunities to draw app installs and advertise with push ads when the users are staying near your physical store.

This way marketers should not rely on luck when crafting their creatives, rather think of the value that you can bring to your audiences, think about how to educate them to use your product so that they could achieve the greater effect, and then recommend your service to other people. In many regards, this concept overlaps with what native advertising has to offer.

Try to understand the pain points of your target audience, then think about how you can solve these problems without promoting your products or services directly.

Display ads example with a compelling message and added user value may also lead to the landing page. In this case, it should include a vivid call to action.

display native ad example

Maintain structure

Every display ad should have a structure and defined elements that could then be rearranged to fit various display ad sizes and formats. The most fundamental elements of a display ad include:

Your company’s name and logo should be clearly visible in order to make your brand recognizable and eye-catching. It will build associations between your services and your business.

A value proposition that contains the main message and should take up most space on your display ad creative. The main aim is to make your proposition catchy and compelling - for instance, special offers and discounts work well. Make sure that the main benefit of your offer is obvious and is matched with the call-to-action and other elements.

Visual elements that would showcase your products and illustrate offers. These usually play a complementary role or serve as a background, depending on the product advertised.

Don’t forget about call-to-action. CTA is usually a link or a button that should lead the customer to an optimized and well-matched landing page with the actual offer. In fact, CTA works as a magic "kick" - it pushes the users to take the action and explains what they should do after reading the message in your display ad - call, come, click, etc.

This is the key element of your ad. In some cases, a simple CTA button optimization with the landing page was reported to increase leads by over 200%. Here is a “Bluehost” sample screen advertisement with all these elements. Clearly state what specifically the user needs to do in order to take advantage of your special offer.

You can then re-arrange them to fit different formats and contexts. Best display ads examples teach us, the images shouldn’t distract users from the text, so make sure that your value proposition and the CTA are the most visible elements. Avoid overlaps and too many blank spaces. Here is one of the great display ad examples with a nice structure that looks natural and highlights the most important elements:

Pay attention to image specifications

Once you’ve come up with the fundamental elements and structure, it is time to dive into visual details such as your display banner ad sizes, formats, and other specifications. First of all, there are plenty of banner ad formats to choose from, such as rich media, interstitial, and responsive display ads.

Next, it is important to choose suitable sizes for the ads on your campaign. IAB offers a comprehensive classification of possible ad unit sizes, which includes medium rectangle (300x250), large rectangle (336x280), wide skyscraper (160x600), leaderboard (728x90), billboard (970x250), and many others.

Among these, some are performing better than others - Google Adsense reports that the most successful display ad sizes are leaderboard, large and medium rectangle, as well as half-page(300x600). Below you can see resolutions for standard ad units: billboard, tablet ad sizes, and leaderboard ad examples.

Standard ad units

Other important specifications to consider are file details. What would be the file format of your creative? Or what about the file size? It should always align with your demand-side platform specifications. For instance, on SmartyAds DSP one can choose from jpg, png, BMP, gif, or html5. The file size shouldn’t exceed 150Kb so that the ads wouldn’t increase page latency.

Which ad sizes work better?

As you can see there are plenty of sizes and resolutions to choose from when you deal with display ads. It is easy to get lost or torn between the desire to be noticed and the need to save advertising budget. With these objectives in mind, it is also important to remember that each size has its own pros and cons.

  • Big ad sizes and full-screen creatives - are considered to be the most memorable. Creatives in such sizes are especially popular for creating immersive connected TV advertising campaigns. They better suit branding campaigns as they effectively catch attention and represent the service or product in the best light.

display ad CTV

  • Medium ad sizes can be universal because they are supported by the majority of online advertising platforms and screens (mobile, in-app, desktop, CTV).
  • Small ad units are specifically popular in mobile, tablet, and in-app ecosystems. Since ad space in such environments is pretty much limited, smaller ad sizes are more preferable to bigger or medium ones.

display mobile example

Create a consistent color scheme

Finally, the visual part of your display creative journey includes choosing the right color scheme for your ad. There are many subtleties to consider while deciding, such as color psychology, your current brand image, an ad’s context, and much more. Ensure your ads are grabbing the user’s attention by using vivid colors and an inviting message.

Use color psychology while picking a color - there are plenty of resources on this topic. For instance, findings from Joe Hallock clearly show that the most liked color for both men and women is blue. At the same time, it was shown that purple was considered more favorable for women, while men preferred green. Each color brings its emotions and associations - use the handy chart below to ease your choice. But don’t forget that your digital marketing campaign should match your overall brand image and, especially, your landing pages.

display ad color scheme

Additionally, in case it is a banner ad that you use, pay attention to the font on your display ad unit as it can also affect the perception of your brand.

  • Bold - creates a feeling of reliability and weight. This font is widely used for real estate, advertising, promoting cars, and construction services.
  • Black letters are best readable on yellow background, while green and red letters are best perceived on white background.
  • Black letters on a white background deliver positive vibes to the ad while white on black can be considered negative.
  • Avoid placing red letters on a green background as well as red - on yellow.

Pick the right frequency

Finally, the rules of display ads best practices state, it is important to keep an eye on advertising frequency (which can depend on many factors, see the picture below). If it is too low the users will forget about you, if it is too high - and they will be annoyed. This one is especially important if you need to choose among the best display ads within the campaign with different messaging and visuals. You can experiment, track their performance and then optimize your campaign continuously.

Normally, one user should see the ad from 3 to 5 times daily in order to memorize the message and yet stay engaged. However, it depends a lot on your business goals and specifics of your niche, thus, we recommend adhering to the best niche practices and professional opinion. Generally, CPC advertising campaigns work best with a 1/24 daily frequency cap, and for CPM it can increase up to 3/24. You can always edit this setting at the ‘Frequency’ parameter while ‘Adding New Creative’ on your demand-side platform.


Targeting and retargeting with display ads

Best display ads examples can teach you several things: they include a compelling messaging/offer, they appear in the right format (that suits the digital environment), and they always are shown to the right users at the right time. Programmatic advertising equips you with tools that help you to reach your target audience with ease.

For instance, on a demand-side platform like SmartyAds, you can select who will watch your ad (age, OS, browser, device type, geolocation of the user, etc.) This way you won’t be spending ad budgets on impressions to the random people who are unlikely to convert.

As well you can choose the precise timing of the day when the ad will appear in front of your target audiences. This way you can show your display ads to the users when they are most active, plus, using a dayparting is also a sure way to avoid overspending - select the right time zone and the ad campaign won’t be shown during non-productive hours (let’s say when your customers sleep).

dayparting on DSP

In case it’s not the first display campaign of yours, you can set up a retargeting display campaign. The best practice, in this case, will be setting a campaign in a different environment. For instance, if the initial campaign addressed your audience through a desktop channel, you need to capture their attention on mobile during the retargeting campaign. Just don’t forget that display creatives should be adjusted to each environment you serve them in.

Checklist: things you should do before airing a campaign

  • Landing page. One of the main things you should check before airing a display campaign: prepare the landing page where the users will flock after following the link in your creatives. The ad that redirects users to the homepage will be ineffective. Specify the link to the specific webpage of the service or product you are offering in the creative. Alternatively, create a separate page with special offers if you are advertising products of different categories.
  • Select the channels. Assess the interests of your target audience and analyze which sites and channels they visit most often. Define several most popular channels among your potential users, for instance, mobile web and in-app environments. Craft your display advertising formats according to the size/width/resolution requirements of these channels.
  • Test several creatives. Create multiple ad variations with different text and images. Run A/B tests so that you knew which ones work better for certain audience segments.
  • Prepare to optimize. Display ads like the rest of the ad formats need to be updated frequently. Any advertisement tends to show better performance within the first couple of weeks. Once a user sees the ad several times, they need to be addressed with new offers since effectiveness gradually decreases. Thus, if you plan your display ad campaign for several months, it is worth preparing several creative options to keep customers engaged. As well, you will have to optimize brand awareness KPI every two weeks to boost your campaign performance.

brand awareness kpi

How to analyze display ad campaign performance

The capabilities of web analytics can significantly simplify this task. The dashboards of advertising platforms, let you easily configure detailed reports with all the basic metrics - impressions, clicks, CTR, etc.

The analysis of display advertising will depend on the initial KPIs that you set for your display campaign. Worth mentioning that display campaigns rarely bring direct sales so would be incorrect to measure them by conversions. Since these ads are used for interaction at the upper level of the funnel, it’s important to take into account brand awareness performance indicators.

If you run your display campaign on a demand-side platform the measurement of those core metrics won’t be difficult. The reports that you can generate in real-time contain aggregated information regarding the number of impressions, ad spend, bids, the number of clicks that your ad managed to achieve within a particular period.

DSP report

Seeing the dynamics of your display campaign over time you can understand how it performs and whether you need to change the flow and optimize it more. Aside from basic performance indicators, you can also use a 3-party tag to track how users interact with your display ad unit. See how to configure ad tags in the DSP guidelines.

ad tags DSP

To wrap it up

There are so many successful display ad examples that you can incorporate into your media mix in order to increase brand awareness. Still, raising awareness is not the only thing they can do - display ads allow marketers to solve several tasks at once: to share the brand’s story, loyalty to the brand, and engagement. The bonus is that they can also increase your site traffic and sales. Display advertising examples that we featured in this article prove - as long as ad units are individualized through targeting, have the right messaging delivery timing, your campaigns will always show great effectiveness.

Sign up today and build the best display advertising strategy with SmartyAds DSP!

Written by
Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
August 2020