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7 ways to create display ads that get noticed

7 ways to create display ads that get noticed Ariel Geifman

One of the hardest things about brand advertising is that you cannot make up for lack of creativity with high media volume. Advertisers have to constantly compete for users' attention and make sure their ads stands out from the mediocre "just OK" standard banners that users face every day.

But some ads do stand out. They make you laugh, play, enjoy -- and most importantly, remember the advertising message. This article features online creatives that fall into this bucket.

What is common to all of these ads is that they seek to deliver an experience rather than just an image featuring a brand. They typically have a striking visual, in many cases taking advantage of a large portion of the screen. They will surprise you and find a way to keep you engaged, make you laugh, and keep you stimulated. These advertisers succeed by creating a holistic advertising experience that is neatly tucked into an ad.

Here are seven ways that advertisers managed to get users excited and gave them a few moments of unexpected joy while browsing.

Combining video into a banner has consistently proven to be one of the best ways to increase effectiveness. MediaMind's benchmarks show that video has a positive effect on nearly every metric. It increases dwell rates by 30 percent and nearly doubles dwell time. Furthermore, it doubles click-through rates and increases conversion rates.

The use of video does more than just draw a user in for more interaction and engagement. Video can also improve brand perception by telling a compelling narrative and spreading the story of the brand. To be effective, videos don't necessarily have to be long, nor do they have to be confined into the traditional trailer.

For example, the below ad for the movie Unstoppable uses fewer than five seconds of video to grab the user's attention and convey what the movie is about. A train rips through the entire homepage from left to right and summarizes the gist of what happens in the movie for an hour and a half.

Playing is one of the most powerful ways to retain a message. Kindergarten teachers know this and do it every day. So why not advertisers? Games have an advantage over other ads since users must actively engage with the brand for an extended period and give their full attention in hopes of winning or getting a high score.

One of my favorite in-banner games is Nestle's Chocapic. This is a virtual reality game that allows you to drive a bike by moving your head. The webcam on the computer identifies the movements of the player and steers the bike left and right. It's easy to play for hours. This is a similar concept employed for the bigger-format augmented reality game (disclosure: a MediaMind-enabled project) that Chocapic launched last year.

TV ads are very different from online ads. TV is a lean-back experience, in which users passively watch whatever is on the screen. Online is a more lean-forward experience, in which people sit with their computers on their laps or at their desks and interact with content. Therefore, when video is delivered online, it is a different experience than TV, and users should be encouraged to interact and engage with it.

The interactive trailer for Avatar (image below) took interactivity to the next level. The trailer starts with the beautiful vistas of the planet Pandora. As the trailer plays, users can click on it and explore the fauna of the planet, the weapons shown in the movie, and many other features. Each time you click on an item in the trailer, it stops and a window opens with the option for the user to explore further. Once the user clicks on the banner and is taken to Avatar's minisite, the user can create a full avatar in his or her image.

This ad promotes the DVD for Avatar and targets users who are already Avatar enthusiasts. It is a great way to draw in users by providing more information and more value. Avatar's creative team went far beyond just putting a trailer in a banner.

Delivering a sense of a fashion brand or the scent of a perfume both offline and online is challenging. In magazines, advertisers use powerful images that convey the essence of the perfume, such as freshness, a seaside breeze, or love and passion. Magazine advertisers have another advantage since they can append a sample of the scent to get users to try it on the spot.


Italian fashion house Diesel took these powerful magazine images and transformed them online. In one of the most sensual ads seen online, Diesel uses a homepage takeover to convey the essence of its new perfume: "Fuel for Life."

At the beginning, a wallpaper ad covers the homepage, and a mid-page unit (MPU) appears in the middle. But once you click on the banner, a full-page homepage takeover opens up, showing a 15-second clip. The clip features a beautiful man and woman playing around with a bottle of perfume. The entire clip is full of sex appeal and suggestive poses that leave little room for imagination.

Diesel has taken some risk due to the highly seductive nature of this ad. Nevertheless, this ad is targeted at the Diesel audience and caters to an image that its young audience looks for and expects from the brand. Young and fashion conscious, the intended audience already likes the Diesel brand, and it can appreciate this ad and image that the brand is trying to sell.

Who said that online and offline advertising should be siloed? Now advertisers can link the physical world and the virtual world using the mobile phone. That is what Tesco, one of the largest global retailers, did when it wanted to expand its brand in South Korea.

Market research has shown that South Koreans work very long hours and have no time to go grocery shopping. Tesco's Korean subsidiary Home Plus put up billboards in subway stations with its range of products, accompanied by QR codes. This created virtual supermarkets within the subway stations where users could stroll between these virtual shelves and shop by scanning the QR codes with their phone and use a special mobile app.

Once someone filled his or her mobile shopping cart, the person checked out online and the groceries were delivered right to that person's door. This campaign alone lifted sales by 133 percent and allowed Tesco in South Korea to become No. 1 in the category. It might sound too good to be true so check out the video to see for yourself.

Have you ever noticed where your eyes focus when a page loads? Probably on the top of the page, which appears to be the perfect place to locate a banner. The advantage of the pushdown banner is that it moves the content down, giving more space to the advertisers' message. Performance data shows that pushdown banners tend to receive ample attention from users. With a dwell rate of 7.7 percent, nearly eight of every 100 impressions will receive an engagement lasting more than one second.

Adidas did a particularly good job with its pushdown banner. When the page loads, the banner expands and the ad presents three football players. This immediately grabs the users' attention. The ad asks users if they would like to win two game tickets to support Spain in-person. Then users click on the blinking words and enter their names, which will appear on the player's shirt. Users can choose one or more players, turn on their webcams, and become part of the ad and appear inside the game. This ad also combines social features, in which users can record themselves, replay, and share on Facebook.

Since users are already used to the location of the MPU in relation to the publisher's content, advertisers are presented with the challenge of breaking the standard mold and delivering a message outside the typical banner that grabs immediate attention.

To advertise the new Eee Slate, Asus and Microsoft decided to get the message across that their product was no ordinary PC. They achieved this by developing two synchronized banners that literally involved out-of-the-box thinking. On the top banner, a young girl reaches out to the MPU in the middle of the page and grabs what looks like an ordinary PC and turns it into a tablet. In a very subtle way, the ad surprises the user and breaks the mold of the regular banner ad. Furthermore, the ad challenges the perception that a PC and a tablet should be two different products.

In online rich media, it's all about the experience. Advertisers who make the effort and let users engage with the brand through games, interactions, and glaring images are going to get attention. These are the kind of ads that are worth users' time.

As the online world becomes more crowded, brand advertisers need to think about new ways to break through the clutter. Rich media provides a flexible canvas on which to express exciting advertising ideas and get users to engage. Brand advertisers that manage to get users truly immersed in the ad can get their messages across far more powerfully than via any other medium.

Ariel Geifman is principal research analyst at MediaMind.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Ariel Geifman is the Director of Marketing at Mintigo, a customer targeting solutions provider.  In his role, Ariel provides advice and insights on performance outbound and inbound marketing, email marketing, lead nurturing and marketing...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: mindful marketing

2013, January 02

thanks for the article ariel. several of our clients are looking into display advertising, however i can't find many tools out there that are user-friendly for creating different types & sizes display ads. google adwords display ad tool is good, but are there others that you're aware of?

Commenter: Spencer Broome

2011, August 22

Love that last example.