by Joe Gillespie — Feb 1, 2003

Having caught the reader's attention, you also have to get their interest.

If someone is beckoning at you with a finger, the person doing it and their demeanour will considerably influence your reaction. Regardless of who they are, your initial reaction will probably be one of suspicion. It is their job to break down your natural reticence and entice you forward and, if they know what they are doing, they will use a skillful combination of body language and verbal language to do so. They are communicating at a number of levels, on the surface and subliminally. If they should mistakenly send a wrong signal, the spell will be broken.

In graphic design terms, the verbal message is the copy and the subliminal one, the visual presentation - the 'look' of the ad. Both are very important and have to work in synergy and harmony. Again, a lot of banner ads fail because the words fail to convince and the design fails to inspire confidence. Neither the right words with a tacky presentation nor a stunning looking ad with the wrong message will do. You have to get both correct! Very few do.

So how can you inspire confidence with graphic design? Well, think of how a singer delivers a song. Not everyone can sing.

Some have little concept of pitch or rhythm and their attempts can sound painful to others - if not to themselves.

Some can keep in tune and remember the lyrics but you still wouldn't want to listen to them if you were sober.

A good singer will not only sing in tune but the way they present the song makes it seem like they are talking directly to you, not to a microphone or an 'exit' sign at the back of the venue. You are communicating soul-to-soul.

Graphic design is about delivering information in ways that people can relate to emotionally. Not everybody likes opera or country and western but everybody dislikes either of them sung badly! Where everybody won't necessarily like a particular style of graphics, if it is just plain bad, nobody will like it and it will not inspire confidence - not only in the designer, but also in the company who hired them!

You will inspire confidence by making positive graphical statements - ones that say something at an intellectual and/or emotive level and are not just visual noise. Visual noise is any graphical statement that does not contribute to the communication - arbitrary decoration, irrelevant images, pointless movement. It dilutes the message and detracts from it and should be avoided. Don't be afraid of 'plainness' - some of the best press ads are just simple lines of black and white type. It's what they say that counts! The perceived need for so-called 'eye-candy' usually emanates from a lack of something to say.

To sum-up, here are some pointers to help make your banner ads more effective:

  • Choose the most appropriate site to put your banner ad to maximise its potential with the intended audience.
  • Identify the environment in which the banner will appear and then make sure it is visible within it.
  • Have a definite message that is short and sweet - and get it across quickly.
  • Don't try to say too much. Use a banner as a 'teaser' to entice the reader into finding out more - at the destination web page.
  • A banner should always look important. Use positive imagery of a high quality.
  • Keep files sizes as small as physically possible.
  • Make the banner and destination work together.
  • Make your visual statements contribute to building an overall identity through distinctiveness and consistent use.
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