Design tips for marketers: web ads

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Alas, the Mad Men style ad agency days are likely behind us. And really, while the clothes were cool, all the smoking and drinking in the office probably wasn’t a great idea. Gone with the suits are the days of the sleek and monolithic monolog ad campaigns. As marketers, we’re learning how to adapt and become part of the conversation.  

“Authenticity” is much more than the latest digital buzzword. It’s a guiding principle that you and your design team need to keep in mind as you map out your digital ad strategy. These tips hold true whether you’re creating video, social, or good old-fashioned display ads. 

Influencer marketing

SketchDeck’s co-founder and Director of Marketing David Mack sees the trend of “organic content from influencers” as one that all marketers should pay attention to. Instead of having your team focus on slick graphics and editing, David recommends a more down-to-earth approach. 

“Say you’re a fitness company. Choose an influencer who’s in great shape and have them shoot an iPhone video of them working out in their actual home.” From there, all your designer needs to do is add some extra text, like a call to action to download the client’s app. 

Even with the additional text, this type of influencer video content has an organic feel that sits comfortably with the other content in a user’s feed. David believes this is important because the advertiser’s content “will look way more native. High production value video just feels out of place.” 

There are no guarantees in life. And marketing campaigns are no exception. But viral video guru Karen X offers these “10 ways to make your video go viral” that you should check out with your team. Her videos have over 500 million views, so it’s a safe bet she’s got some news you can use. 

When a consumer scrolls through their social feed, if something feels too slick and corporate it gets skipped right over. In fact, Karen encourages her clients to REDUCE the production value of their online content. As you can see in her “Girl learns to dance in a year” video, it doesn’t wow the viewer with fancy editing or graphics. But, to date, it has over 12 million views. 

When marketers can take cues from this approach it gives their video content a better chance of being seen by their audience. So before your next video brainstorm meeting, do some research and come equipped with viral video examples from Karen as well as from other big names in the genre. 

If your assignment is to create something more product-driven, chances are you’ll need to focus a lot more on messaging. This might call for a slightly more buttoned-up approach from you and the team. 

Ali T. is the Director of Product Marketing at an online personal styling service currently valued at over $2 billion. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, and she held her first digital strategy position way back in 2008. Ali has seen how the use of video has changed over the years, and has a keen eye for what NOT to do. 

“Believe it or not, most video ads are still too reliant on audio to get their message across. Most users will be watching videos without sound, so if you plan to use voiceover ensure you also include closed captioning.” 

Banner ads: the format that just won’t die   

Display (or banner) ads have been around since the internet was in its infancy. And while we may have advanced beyond a fake-search cursor and a “click here” button, the ads themselves won’t be going away anytime soon. 

Effective display ads typically have three key components: a logo, a value proposition, and a call to action (CTA). Anything more than that and you risk the key message getting lost in the shuffle. So at the risk of insulting them, when designing a banner ad, remind your designer to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Our last tip for banner ad design comes from Derick Daily, President and Founder of SF-based design agency the Savage Bureau. “Designers need to keep in mind where the ad is driving to. The look and feel of the ad should match the look and feel of the landing page or website you arrive at after someone clicks.” Sound advice, from someone with 20-years experience as a Web Designer, Art Director, and Creative Director. 

Get social  

When designing ads for social platforms, remember the word “social”. These aren’t billboards or mass-broadcast TV spots. These are ads that need to feel at home alongside posts from users’ friends and family. Don’t try and hide the fact that it’s an ad, but don’t bark at your audience either. 

Molly Miller is a journalist and storyteller with over 20-years experience in marketing. In her current role as a Business Success Storyteller at Facebook, she helps businesses express themselves on the world’s largest social platform. 

“If there is one piece of advice I can give marketers looking to share their message on social platforms, it would be to focus on authenticity. Stay away from jargon, and speak with your audience in clear, uncluttered language.” 

In addition to being conversational, social media is, by nature, ever-changing. Which is a big reason why David Mack encourages marketing professionals to stay on top of trends. “Keeping up with the latest feature releases across your ad networks is crucial. It can really help give you an edge over other marketers.” 

Write the right words 

With so much emphasis placed on the visuals, there is a danger to neglect the writing side. Molly Miller advises marketers to get design and writing in lockstep early and to “make sure the visual matches the copy. Too many social ads choose a compelling image and then plug in boilerplate language almost after the fact. Copy and design have to work together for an ad to resonate.” 

Ideally your writer and designer will have time to work through concepts together, then present their favorites. But if you’re looking for a crash course, Sprout Social published this must-read article geared toward any marketer looking to run ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. 

What now? 

The way consumers absorb and interact with their media has changed. And if marketers want to get their message across, they have to change too. At the very least it’s abundantly clear that there is an ever-pressing need to talk WITH consumers instead of AT them. 

We carry our devices with us at all times, they’re a part of our lives. So it’s no wonder that the messaging that resonates comes from someone like Karen X and not some perfectly-coiffed celebrity spokesperson. 

When putting together your next campaign, make sure you and your design team are on the same page around how the ads should feel. Remember: tone-deaf speeches are out, authentic conversations are in. Although having the occasional martini in the office doesn’t sound like such a bad idea ….

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce

Redefine what's possible with SketchDeck.

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