Just what the Internet needs…MORE BANNERS!

12 Jan

Back to schooool, back to schooool… You may not be able to tell, but I’m singing. Maybe it’s being back at school, maybe it’s the sleep I’m already forsaking, or maybe it’s this delicious blueberry muffin I’m enjoying, but I’m really excited this morning. We’re going to make amazing things happen this semester and I’m totally “stoked,” as the kids say.

So let’s start off this year with an in-depth look at the Internet’s proverbial case of acne: banner ads.

We split off into groups this morning and discussed some banner ads we found around the interwebs. We talked about great ads, decent ads, practically invisible ads, and the “so-bad-it’s-good” ads. When I say “invisible ad,” I mean an ad that’s so bland, boring and expected that it easily falls into the background and goes unnoticed. Take a look at this heat map I found that came with this explanation:
“Heatmaps from eyetracking studies: The areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer views, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn’t attract any fixations. Green boxes were drawn on top of the images after the study to highlight the advertisements.”

Notice the ads get no love from the audience. And it might be because they got no love from their designer, either. Here’s an example of a perfectly forgettable banner ad I found:

What’s frustrating about this banner is that it’s living in this horrible, barren middle ground between design sense and… the exact opposite of innovation and interest. The white space between elements is nicely considered, but the centered placement of everything and complete disregard for the space of the banner makes this a failure. In contrast, I found another simple, white-space heavy banner ad that does a little bit of a better job with composition:

Both these ads seem like they started off in the same place: one image, very little copy, lots of white space. But where the Nexus ad failed to create visual interest by centering everything, the Behance ad allowed angles and cropping to create an ad that doesn’t hurt to look at.

Some banner ads don’t even try to look decent. These horrible ads try to catch our attention either by being obnoxious or making ridiculous, late-night-tv
type claims about weight loss and fortune building. However, the effectiveness of these ads is debatable. If their end goal is to gain traffic to their site, they fail miserably. However, if the goal is to simply been seen and perhaps recognized, they probably succeed more than we would like to admit. How many times have you seen an ad about punching Osama bin Laden or catching a monkey? And how many of you have seen some variation this gem:

That last one’s even in a different language. I guess it’s at least nice to know the same crap gets peddled world-wide. An article for The Business Insider had this to say about clickable online ads:
“80% of display ad clicks come from less than 20% of the Internet population, indicating that clicks are not necessarily as relevant to brand advertisers … When exposed to branded ads, the impact may not be direct or immediate, but there appears to be strong evidence that users engage better and transact more with brands once they’ve been exposed to them.”
It seems that even when we ignore them, the banner ads somehow win. However, all is not lost. There is a little, shimmering oasis of beautiful banner ads in a desolate wasteland of flash banners asking me to punch things or determine which celebrity has a fake nose or whatever. They are nearly impossible to find. Catching one is like finding a leprechaun. But take heart, for they do indeed exist. Here’s my favorite that Sara found:

Simply gorgeous. It is exactly what it is and nothing else. It’s not trying to grab me with poorly-drawn flashing cartoon characters or an animated gif of a girl in a bikini losing weight. It employs a classic design sensibility that is strong and simple. And this is what we’ve decided is the formula for a great banner ad: SIMPLICITY. A simple color palate, simple body copy. So keeping this in mind, I set off to create a banner ad for Web in the Wild, that fake web conference we worked on last semester. Hopefully I can create a banner that would make this Edward G. multimedia designer I can’t seem to find on the Internet….proud.


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