Digital Transformation Agency

Five things that will make your display ads engage more

By Alun Davies | Head of creative



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June 2, 2021 | 8 min read

Every touchpoint of your brand is capable of being that last thing someone needs to see to convince them to purchase.

When you think about things in terms of that magnitude, it’s easy to want to start getting very granular with the detail in order to fine-tune performance.

Hallam consider the importance of keeping display ad messages simple and focused.

Hallam considers the importance of keeping display ad messages simple and focused

But when it comes to display ads, it’s actually more about remembering some simple, basic principles that can easily get lost in the noise. Adhere to these, and your next campaign should see a bump in engagement.

Be clear with what your advert is about

Display ads tend to work best when they’re built around impulsive reactions. When people see them, it’s often as part of a page they’ve chosen to visit, which means they came with a different purpose than to buy your wares.

So you need to get to the point, as their attention is elsewhere.

Are you asking them to look at your new product? Do you need them to pay attention to this season’s hottest sale (yours)? Is it that you are just wanting to establish awareness of your brand in their mind for the future?

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Choose an angle, stick to the angle, and don’t be tempted to add another angle. This has to be a simple, strong hook that will pry them away from their original focus.

That leads nicely into the next thing to remember...

Do not cram content – curate it

When you have a limited amount of space and a keen interest to see a strong ROI, the instinctive thing to do can be to ‘maximize space’, for example say loads of things at the same time.

You can do that for overhead adverts on the Circle & District Line, not so much for a 250x300 pixel box in the middle of a gossip article on a three-year-old phone.

If you’ve got a lot to say, spread it out over a series of adverts. It gives the impression you have more to say, it gives the viewer more variety as they’ll be getting exposed to different adverts, and it helps keep your sales messages focused at each point.


This especially helps when you’re having to use some of the more popular GDN ad sizes, which tend to be ‘economic’ with their delivery sizes. Don’t attempt to cram the same message you’re using in your larger adverts into the smaller ones. It just won’t fit and suddenly your message isn’t as clear. If you do have a lot of content, look to scale it back to the essentials for those especially small sizes.

Another reason for not carrying too much content is that you have to...

Consider your advert’s surroundings

Don’t design your advert in the confines of a bright, white, crisp and clean page, because your audience sure as hell won’t be viewing it in that context.

Display ads appear on busy, content-rich pages fighting against other display ads. That delicate balance of a thin sans serif font and tasteful whitespace you got signed off? That’s got a high probability of getting lost in the noise.


Now, this doesn’t mean display ads are barren of good design. It just means you have some additional context to take into account.

Consider using colour backgrounds, large images or heavy frames, as they will invariably be appearing on white pages. This separation from the page will immediately help grab attention. It then becomes a question of how interesting your content is – because you’ll have to...

Be confident in your difference

As I’ve said throughout, you’re fighting for attention. Sure, you could flood your ad with the brightest red you can find, slap ‘SALE’ at the top, and call it a day. You’ll probably get a few clicks that way. Good for you.

But in the current digital climate, it’s becoming increasingly important to be creative and be different. The internet may have given a platform to millions of businesses to reach out to audiences they never thought possible, but it’s also raised expectations in consumer’s minds in terms of customer service and presentation of the message.

They want to be entertained, they want something to spark in the back of their heads, they want to desire. So give it to them instead of the same old, same old.


Investing in creativity will give a unique voice and ultimately cut through noise better than ‘Save 5%’.

It just takes confidence and belief in the right creative partner with the right thinking. Look for a different angle to your competitors, a different take that will hold attention that split second longer. That could be the difference between a conversion and a pass.

Whatever great concept you strike upon, remember to keep it in tone with your brand. Ultimately you’re gonna need to...

Make sure the adverts match what they link to

This might sound obvious, but honestly, this really matters a great deal.

When your perfectly designed advert is screaming ‘Click Me’, what it’s actually saying is ‘Trust Me’.

When someone clicks through on an advert for something they’re interested in but ultimately unfamiliar with, they’re taking a leap of faith. If what they see at the other end of that leap doesn’t match with what caused them to leap in the first place, they’ll bounce off the page quickly.


Earn their trust by presenting precisely what they clicked for. Make sure your link is direct (such as in the case of a product or sale), and make sure the visuals and tone are the same as the ad. The more they trust you, the more you encourage them to stay on your page.

In the end, just keep it simple

You can do a lot with display ads. You can animate them. You can make them your main touchpoint if you choose to.

But while they can do a lot, you should do what you can to make sure they only show a little. Staying disciplined and focused around one simple message that is told in an interesting way is the best target to aim for.

Alun Davies is head of creative at Hallam.

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