Three tips for creating

effective display ads


October 16, 2019

If you’re going to do it, do it well

You probably already know that businesses large and small use display advertising to increase brand awareness, target their audience, and track performance data in real-time. In 2019 alone, businesses in the United States are projected to spend a total of $54.69B on digital display ads. Yeah, B as in billion. But, not all display ads are created equal. Let’s jump into our three keys to creating superior ads.

Tip 1: Establish a hierarchy

Information hierarchy is the classification of visual elements according to relative importance, which helps users process information effectively. Display ads are in the view of users for an average of 22.02 seconds on desktop and even less time on mobile at 16.19 seconds. With this short window of viewing time, users must be able to understand the ad’s content at a glance. Establishing an information hierarchy helps.


The value proposition (AKA value prop) calls attention to a product or service. It may feature highlights, offers, or prices and uses the most space of any component. Value propositions should be the first component viewers see.


The call to action (CTA) serves as an invitation for the user to click. The CTA may not require the most space, yet, it should be the ad’s focal point. Display ad CTAs should take the form of labeled buttons.

Use urgent, action-oriented, first-person language
Copy like “now” and “today only” encourages viewers to act soon or miss out. Additionally, writing copy in the first person forms a more personal link between the user and the product. A recent study found that changing button copy from second- to first-person resulted in a 90% increase in click-through-rate.

Check out these action-oriented examples:

  • Schedule My Visit Now
  • Save 20% Today Only
  • Start My 30 Day Trial Today


It’s essential to include your logo to build brand awareness. That said, it should not be the ad’s focal point.

Tip 2: Don’t overlook design best-practices

Writing relevant copy is critical to creating successful display ads, but there’s more you can do. Some extra thought and well-informed design decisions can bring your display ads to the next level. 


Any images you choose to include, whether photos or graphics, should serve a purpose. Images used for decoration alone are visual clutter. Instead, include a product photo or an illustration that directs attention to the CTA button. Always be sure to use uncluttered, high-resolution images that allow for legible text. 


First and foremost, text needs to be legible. Err on the side of large type, keeping font sizes to a bare minimum of 10 points.

Typeface choice also matters. A serif font, like Times New Roman or Garamond, might be used to add a touch of class or creativity at large sizes. A sans-serif font, like Arial or Roboto, can achieve a sleek look that is more widely-implemented on the web. Sans-serifs are a better choice for legible button text, and sticking with these Google web fonts is a safe bet.


Many studies have attempted to define which color CTA button performs the best, but with varying results. Instead, we recommend focusing on choosing a button color that will stand out from the background and provide ample contrast for the CTA text. Typically, choosing white or black text affords the best contrast. When in doubt, test your text-to-button color contrast by inputting Hex color values. A minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 is suggested for text to be easily legible.

Tip 3: Format for success

With the ads’ content decided upon, it’s time to execute. Use the following recommended sizes and adhere to our formatting tips to help your ads perform the best.


Once you’ve established the content and the visual style of your digital ads, it’s time to translate them to each ad size. We recommend building out each of the following, which are all included in Google’s most common display ad sizes.

Large sizes

  • 300 x 600
  • 160 x 600
  • 300 x 250

Small sizes

  • 728 x 90
  • 320 x 50
  • 300 x 50


Ads need to render on a webpage immediately. If an image’s file size is too large, it may not appear until the user has moved on from that section of the web page. Different ad networks have varying recommendations for maximum file sizes, but we stick to the following as best-practice:


  • Large sizes – max size 150kb
  • Small sizes – max size 44kb


Be sure to optimize your ads for use on the web. Photoshop makes it easy. Just click Export > Save for Web to ensure your image is using the RGB color mode and one of the accepted file types—.GIF, JPG, or PNG.

But wait, there’s more!

Need help designing your company’s display ads? Let’s have a conversation! Contact us today.

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