Banner Ads Can Be Native Too

As we navigate the brave new world of online advertising, think about your own Web consumption patterns.  

If you’re like most people, you have a unique style of browsing for news and entertainment. In both your online research and newsgathering, a few basic patterns are likely to emerge:

  • You are in charge of your own browsing path and choose your own (content) adventure. Pages and content you consume aren’t laid out in any particular order.
  • The headline is the dominant driver of your consumption -- if it doesn’t capture your attention, you will move on to billions of other options.  
  • More is the order of the day. Once a person finds something that interests him or her, they consume that content until they run out of time or content that interests them.

Whether you are researching things to do on vacation or solutions for a project at work, successful publishers capitalize on these behaviors. Search optimization, social amplification tools, headline testing and the promotion of related and popular content are of paramount importance to all content sites. The most successful ones do a great job at most or all of these tasks.



If these tenets are key to publisher success at audience building, might they also help with improving the results of advertising creative? If the Web is a new content experience, why do so many online ads look like animated print ads, or TV ads with the sound turned off?  

Perhaps the two most utilized online navigation tools are the back button and the “related/suggested content” areas on a Web page. The back button is acknowledgement of a wrong turn – “let me retrace my steps.” The related/suggested content is a continuation of a session – “Give me more!”  

In keeping with this behavior, display ads designed to feature content (that is, ads that act like recommended content areas) are much more likely to be interacted with -- and clicked.

For banners to behave most effectively in their capacity to serve related content, here are some basic rules:

  • Ads should provide various content options for exploration
  • They should be compelling, i.e., minimize  “sales/marketing speak” in headlines -- and copy, unless you want users to hit that back button.
  • Ad should give readers more of what they have already expressed interest in

Our brand partners at Business Insider have experienced success engaging consumers by following these guidelines:

Make content the center of your creative strategy. You can’t tack content on to the end of your ad and expect the same kind of impact.

Avoid marketing speak and overly promotional language.  Content needs to be conversational and informative. Don’t limit your focus on the company/products you are looking to promote, but it must be done much more gently than that of the typical ad message.  

Refresh often. Ever seen an ad say “join the conversation,” but when you join you realize they haven’t said anything new for months? Ads themselves may not constantly need to be redesigned, but the content within them should be.  

Highlight environments where people can get more. Content-driven ads complement the work you’re doing on your own brand’s site and/or social channels.  Make the connection.

Despite all the hype, the banner is far from dead. It’s just suffering from a frozen creative paradigm rooted in print and television traditions that aren’t native to the Web.

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