10 Worst Banner Ads

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Banner ads. We all see ‘em flickering at us as we surf the web.

They’re on news sites, blogs, Facebook… oh just about everywhere.

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Some of us may actually use banner ads to get clicks to our sites.

What’s the point of banner ads?

For those of you who aren’t sure what the purpose of banner ads are, here’s a simple explaination.

Banner ad are clickable online billboards. Here’s how they work:

Banner Ad > leads to > A Website > which has > Something for Sale

So the idea is that you’ll click on the banner ad, land on a page that pitches you a product or service, then you give them your money.

For those of us selling something, banner ads are just another way to get targeted traffic. We put them in places where our prospects are likely to look so they’ll find us and buy something.

Hey, targeted traffic? Money in our pockets? What’s not to love about banner ads!

Well, a lot.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, banner ads can rip a hole in your pocket.

Banner ads cost money to run. You have to either pay per click, or pay per view.

So before you run your next ad campaign, here’s the 10 worst Banner ad mistakes to avoid!

Mistake 1) Your ad is too cluttered.

An ad like this might seem like a good concept on the drawing board. It has a call to action, a place to enter your zipcode, and a headline.

Not a horrible idea, but poor execution

However, when placed in a blog, competing with lots of other images and writing – it just becomes clutter.

The eye passes over ads that have too much text in them.

Make it easy for your target audience to find your offerings.

Which brings us to…

Mistake 2) The text in your ad is hard to read.

Take a look at this one. This ad looks so warped, I couldn’t figure out what the heck they were trying to sell. Perhaps they thought that allowing a person to select their age would draw attention to the ad?

Or maybe they thought someone would jump from their chair and exclaim “HOLY CRAP BATMAN! That ad looks like it was printed from a dot matrix printer! Whatever it is, I must buy from them!”

The inspiration for this ad came from someone’s shirt tag.

Not only did they choose a difficult typeset, but they tried to jam a long string of sentences into a small space.

What they should have done is used the banner as a teaser.

Instead of trying to say everything on the ad, they should have said something like: “Homeowner: this one easy trick could save you $145,000 off your home loan. Click here!”

Remember, with most ads, brevity is the key.

Mistake 3) Your ad has stupid gimmicks that are irrelevant to what you’re selling

Remember those “Punch the monkey” banners?

Oh, how I loathed them. They spawned a seemingly endless saga of “Hurt the X, win a X” series of banner ads designed to get you to click them.

So I should have like, 5 Ipods by now.

Then once you clicked them, you were whisked away to some survey site to do an endless number of tasks that would result in you getting spyware on your computer.

A brief history: I did some digging around and found that this trend was started by a company called “Treeloot.” The initial ad was successful since it was a free game on the computer, what’s not to love! But as internet users became more savvy, the click through rate on these types of ads plummeted.

These ads still exist, although not in as great of numbers. If you’re longing for the days when you could whack an animal in a 125 x 125 javascript frame, here’s a gallery of animated banner ads that you can play to your heart’s content. (don’t worry, no spam.)

Mistake 4) You rely on sex appeal for a non-sexual product

It’s no secret that having a picture of an attractive women will increase click throughs on banner ads.

But tricking a perosn to click through to your sales page about a hemorrhoid cream or sleeping pills by using a vague headline and an attractive girl will result in disgruntled people closing your site before they buy anything.

Gee, I wonder what her secret to helping us to sleep all night long is.

Yes, getting people to click your ad is important. But it’s more important to turn them into customers.

Mistake 5) You let your 7 year old nephew design your ad

That’s the only logical explination for this ad I found below.

Whatever school she’s from, sign me up!

The best part is when you hover over the real ad, the siren lights up!

Mistake 6) Your ad is boring

Like I said, the point of your ad is to get the click.

If your ad doesn’t draw your target audience’s attention, then it has failed.

A new policy, eh? I’ll read that after I read my VCR manual.

If you’re going to get me excited, then don’t tell me there’s a new policy.

Who wants to read about policies!?

Tell me something that hits my emotional chords.

Mistake 7) Your ad relies on people knowing who you are

If you’re a very well known brand like Microsoft or Apple, you can get away with a simple message joined by flashing your logo.

But unless you’re a giant, don’t assume that everyone know who you are and what you offer.

This ad wouldn’t have be horrible on its own…

Based on the image, I had assumed that this was a Bath and Beauty store having a sale.

Except that at first glance, I assumed it was for membership to a store that sold bathing goods.

It wasn’t until I looked at the very bottom that I realized this was an ad for membership for a Children’s museum.

Imagine how many prospective customers they lost because the customer saw the vague ad and thought “Oh, I’m set for bath supplies. Sure wish I had someplace to take the kids though.”

Mistake 8 ) You offer no incentive for people to click your ad

This was a flash ad, but all it said was:

“Now’s the best time to switch to AT&T!”

This was the finish screen.

The ad commands me… I must comply!

Why? What reason did they give me to drop my current carrier and switch to their services?

If you already have AT&T, you wouldn’t need to click this.

If you didn’t have AT&T you have no REASON to click this.

You don’t need to have a sale or special offer for every banner ad, but at least give people a reason to switch. Example: Fastest 3G service – make the switch today!”

Mistake 9) You hide your headline.

The whole idea of your ad is to get them excited about what you’re offering.

So why make the sale information smaller than the store info?

How artsy

I’d bet they’d get a lot more clicks if they made that “60% off brand name” deal the largest text.

Mistake 10) You don’t have an obvious “Call to Action”

This is a biggie.

Most banner ads that work will use a button that says “Learn more” or “Get started now” or “Try now.”

That’s so the interested viewer knows what the next step is.

But when you have an ad like this:

Okay, but now what do I do?

It might seem obvious to click on it, but believe it or not, some people will not know what to do unless you tell them.

And if you make them work for it, they might just shrug and skip it over.

So do yourself a favor and add a button with instructions on what they should do to take the next step.

And remember, if you run an ad… Test, Test, Test!

Test different images, test different headlines, try new things and track your results.

Talk to you soon!

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