How Banner Ads Work

Banner ads are part and parcel of today’s web experience. If you spend any amount of time surfing internet sites, you’ll be confronted by these advertisements regularly. The actual pages they’re liable to appear on vary tremendously, as do their actual dimensions (they’re usually rectangular; apart from that their size, colour scheme, background image content and subject matter are infinitely changeable).

So what exactly are these banner ads for? The clue is in the title: banner adverts. These are slices of advertising space, comprising suitable text and/or some graphic design. The beauty is in their simplicity. A web designer can knock one together in no time at all – like anything else delivered by your web browser, banner ads consist of HTML code. And the code required for what is essentially a glorified text box is pretty straightforward. However, for all that banner ads are basic HTML elements; their importance in web marketing is immense.

The internet has completely revolutionized business, raising the profiles of everyone from Sky TV to the Houses of Parliament to your local plumber by offering a shop window to the world. Advertisers have been quick to seize upon this golden opportunity. With millions of web users clicking in and out of sites at a dizzying rate, the viewing figures these banners ads can attract become mind-boggling.

While the first property of a banner ad is to attract your attention once you’ve landed on a particular web page, that’s only part of the story. The HTML code behind this advert will contain hyperlink text. The idea is that if a banner ad is suitably enticing, the user will actually click on the text. This hyperlink will then instruct the web server to present a completely different page – the content that the banner ad relates to.

The design of the actual box can take many formats. As with any form of advertising, there will be a strong emphasis on attracting your attention. Colours will be bold. The typeface will usually be sans-serif and eye-catching in other ways, such as using an emboldened or italicized font. There may be a strong graphic element, with use of a background image (a JPEG or GIF). While outwardly the concept of a banner ad closely mirrors the advertising you would see in any magazine or newspaper, the fundamental difference is its ability to not only draw your attention to a particular product or service but to then bring that product or service directly to your browser, with a single mouse click.

The power of this form of advertising cannot be overstated. And because banner ads are utilising web technology, they can be so much more than simple links. They can be dynamic. They can stay lodged in a certain part of a web page (and this will be another aspect taken into consideration at the design stage, as there are certain portions of any web page that attract the surfer’s immediate attention). But they can also present many images, such as short animations. When the cursor moved over the ad (known as a ‘mouseover’) the code behind the ad could be triggered to instantly change appearance.

Ad dimensions vary from ‘micro button’ (88 x 31 pixels) all the way up to a full banner (486 x 60 pixels). It goes without saying that the larger the banner ad is, the more likely it is to be reacted to by the user – although it is important to stress other factors are involved. An eye-catching logo might be better at hooking someone’s attention than a larger but less attractive banner. On the other hand, many web users are put off by excessively gaudy adverts – especially in the context of them appearing in the middle of the actual site they’ve searched for and landed on. Overly-intrusive ads will either be ignored, or users might search for an ‘X’ button to close them down.

While some banner ads use static images, others use a series of animated GIFs, giving the impression of a short movie. More sophisticated versions employ actual video, using Javascript or Flash Banner Design. In all these instances, the aim is the same, to reel in the user and present a hyperlink to the product.

Banner ads are not only aimed at generating revenue for the advertiser site, the very act of clicking on the ad will generate stats for the publisher site. Additionally, while not every customer who ‘clicks-through’ will go on to actually buy anything, the power of the banner ad, especially when branding is involved, is aimed at lodging in the web user’s sub-conscious. They might come across the product at a later date and be tempted to invest. So long after the PC or laptop has been ‘Shut Down’, the banner ad is continuing to do its highly effective work.

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