Why Some Display Ad Designs Are So Clickable

Some display ad designs just work better than others. And this might sound surprising, especially if you’re not using display ads at all. Maybe you’ve been discouraged by the fact that 11% of internet users block display ads and many others simply turn them out.

But hang on now – we know that sounds discouraging. Just hear us out. With the right display ad designs, you can actually get the results you’re looking for. Especially as your display ad designs may often be the first or one of the first impressions you make on your target audience. And as a result they will play a massive role in how they buy from you and how they perceive you.

So let’s take a look at how you can create the very best display ad designs and the best practices that will help you along with this.

Best practices for display ad designs 

Color and contrast 

Contrast is an important way to draw attention to your call to action. And the way in which you create contrast has to make sense to your brand. So think of your audience and what appeals to them, and how you can make use of your brand colors.

For you to decide what colors you would like to use, use the color wheel for help. First, find the most dominant color that is there in your ad and then move to the complete opposite end of the color wheel to find the color that contrasts it. If you need help figuring out your color schemes, there is a whole bunch of tools that you can use like Adobe Color for example. You will be able to select a color that complements the dominant color using this tool which will give you just the right amount of contrast. 

Keep the messaging in the ad as simple as you can 

One of the most important things that you need to do is make sure that the message you are communicating is simple. Only 9% of display ads are viewed for more than one second and that trickles down to just 4% at 2 seconds. You get the idea? If your potential customer cannot immediately understand the message that you are trying to get across, they will simply not click on the ad. And they certainly will not remember your brand. Below is an example of a banner display ad that did not work well because of the amount of copy.

The color contrast is done well. But, the message is not straightforward, and as a result there is way too much copy on the ad. This can confuse viewers as to where to look at first, and cause the design to become cluttered. And the CTA copy is also very vague. So even if someone successfully understood the ad, they may not be compelled to act.  Now, below is an improved version of the exact same ad.

This second version looks much simpler, cleaner and clearer to understand. This is exactly what we mean when we ask you to keep the messaging simple. The impact that you can create is so much more, when the messaging is simple.

Ad copy is critical in your display ad designs

Closely related to simple messaging (i.e. focusing on a particular value proposition and call to action), is having minimal copy. That’s why it’s important that the copy and the design are developed in tandem when you are creating the ad. If there are too many words, the banner that you are designing will feel cluttered and it will also make it very difficult for you to communicate your value proposition.

The less copy you have, the better the display ad will look. Make sure that the copy is very concise, especially because you also have to take into consideration the fact that this will be viewed on mobile mostly. If your banner size is the popular 320×100, too many words will just make it look like a hot mess. 

Think about context for your display ad designs 

Let us say that you have an ad that is really high performing. You then move it onto a different platform and you see that the creative’s performance just does a nosedive. This is why we say that the context in which the ad will be displayed is critical. To put it simply, a display ad that will perform really well on Google Display Network will probably perform poorly on a website of your brand, just because it feels too much like an ad. The ads that will work better on your website would be the ones that create a cohesive experience with your site itself. 


Creating ads that work well and blend in with your website is really important and it will significantly improve the number of clicks and conversions that you have for on-site native ads. You will also come to realize that some formats will perform better than others on certain networks. For example, you would get fantastic results with static images on the Google Display Network but then, according to Facebook, the best approach for Facebook Ads is a combo of images and video. And in fact, they say that carousel ads will work the best.

Make use of holidays and seasons to refresh your display ad designs

To make sure that your display ads and other creatives are relevant throughout the year, update them often. You can do this based on holidays and the seasonal changes that are relevant to your audience. For example, for Halloween, you could simply add a Jack O Lantern theme to what you do, Christmas could have holly berries and bells and the New Year could mean celebratory colors and messaging in the ads. 

Just make sure that your messaging and design updates are relevant to your audience – especially if they reside in different geographical locations. What works for one audience may not spruce up interest for the other. For example, you wouldn’t have ads with a 4th of July theme unless you were specifically targeting your audience in the US. 

The structure of the display ad is key 

Your ad needs to be distinguishable from any other normal web page content. To achieve this it needs to have very clearly defined boundaries, so that it is not confused with other content. And your display ad designs need to be flexible enough to look good no matter how they are resized. This is important as people will view your ads from many different devices. If you’re using Google Ads, you will have a few different ad sizes to choose from, ranging from half pages to leaderboards to large mobile banners. The most popular sizes tend to be:

  • 300 x 250 medium rectangle 
  • 336 x 280 large rectangle 
  • 728 x 90 leaderboard 
The main components of your display ad designs 

Your ads need to have four main components:

  • The logo or the name of the business/company 
  • The value proposition
  • An image or visual representation of the service you offer 
  • A CTA button that is clear and strong 

How you can arrange these components is very important. The value proposition and the CTA are crucial of course, and should be easy to identify within your display ad designs. So, you should place the logo subtly and give priority to the CTA and your value proposition. As far as  your image, it  should complement and reinforce rather than add clutter. Below is a good example of how all this can be achieved.

Typography in your display ad designs

Typography is another element in your display ad designs that will help draw the eye of the customer to the most important information. The font that you use must be clear and easily readable. You could have an amazing image and if the people seeing your display ad cannot really figure out what the font says, everything else is just a waste of creativity. Use copy that will immediately grab the eye of the customer.

The typeface that you use is also really important. There are literally thousands of fonts that you can use, but that does not mean that you should be using many different fonts in the design. It will make the design busy and your customer will not be able to focus. Try sticking to one font with different weights, if required. Or two which complement each at the most, so that you create just the right amount of contrast.

Using custom images and graphics 

You should not use images to simply fill up space. Images are vital to marketing and the more you are able to convey a message through the right imagery, the higher the chances that people will remember it. That means that the images you use should always serve a purpose and should not just be used for the sake of it. Using custom designs and imagery, will keep your customer engaged and interested. Try and avoid stock images as much as you can, unless you can find options that are highly relevant to your brand.

 If you look at the example above, you will see that the images do grab your attention. They do this without taking away from the message that the ad has to offer. In fact they reinforce it. As a result, you’re more likely to click on the CTA. This particular brand, Wistia, nails the design where they build interest and then takes the client to the landing pages where they can access so much more information.

Need some help designing?

We know that not every business out there can actually afford to pay an in-house full-time designer. And agencies aren’t always an option either. That’s where a service like Kimp, offering unlimited graphic design can help. Especially since you’ll need lots of different display ad designs to A/B test with. 

So why are some display ad designs more clickable than others? 

Because they are carefully thought out with a lot of emphasis given to how they’re designed. And because the businesses behind them create and test a ton of variations! But here’s the thing, these businesses are just like yours. They’re just a little further on in their journey to get more results with their display ad designs.

So don’t just be that brand that has really good products and services that no one knows about. It’s time to get the word about all that you have to offer.