Display Advertising Best Practices

March 16, 2017 Emma Cullen

Display advertising best practices have developed greatly since the first display ad appeared online in the 1990s. Display advertising itself has evolved from mere static images to one of the biggest branches of online marketing that incorporates a whole spectrum of technology from video to rich media ads and more.

When working with display advertising it is common to cooperate with a variety of external services in order to make sure that your display advertisements are created and displayed properly. When working with a number of external factors, it is of course necessary to implement some display advertising best practices. Also, many advertising networks have implemented their own best practices and guidelines that must be followed in order for ad creatives to be approved by the network.

This article brings together some general display advertising best practices that will help you to build display advertising campaigns that will not only be approved by ad networks, but will also be attractive to your audience and increase your click-through rate.

General Best Practices

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and a number of companies such as advertising networks have developed a range of display advertising best practices. Whilst some of the below of simply guidelines, others should always be followed and are actively implemented by advertising networks and other publishing platforms. Therefore, before building a display advertising campaign, check with the networks and publishers you are using to see what their exact requirements are. This will make sure that your campaigns are approved quickly and without hassle.

Border requirements

In their display advertising best practices guidelines, IAB states that display ad creatives should be “clearly distinguishable from normal webpage content” and stresses that the “ad unit must have clearly defined borders and not be confused with normal web content”. This best practice is also often implemented by ad networks too, so it is important to follow this for swift ad approval.

The easiest ways to fulfil this best practice is to either make sure your display ad has a border which you can add to your creative whilst building your design, or to make sure that your display ad creative does not blend in with the rest of the webpage, i.e. the background is a different colour to the webpage that is is on.

Avoid computer simulations

Maybe this goes without saying, but you should definitely not include fake computer simulations that might confuse users. This goes for fake sounds to making your banner look like a computer notification. This is an important display advertising best practice because it not only stops malicious advertisers, but it also protects your brand’s reputation. Creating display ads that mimic computer actions appears unprofessional and dishonest, and such “scareware” is often associated with rogue advertisers, so avoid at all costs.

Genuine interactivity

Using forms on display ads can be a great way to encourage engagement, just make sure the form you use is real.

Interactive display ads are becoming increasingly popular amongst online advertisers. If you want to include such advanced features in your display ad, make sure the interactivity is genuine, rather than making your display ad look interactive in a bid to increase your click-through rate.

Animation length

Some networks have a maximum loop length for animated banner ads. Always check with the networks and publishers you are using to make sure that your display complies with their regulations. The IAB recommends that animation length should be no longer than 15 seconds.

Fallback images

A lot of networks require that you have fallback images, i.e. static or .gif versions of the display advertisements your are using incase your display ad cannot be viewed on certain (usually older) screens. Fallback images are created automatically for your display ads in BannerFlow, so it is one less thing to think about.

Best Practices to Increase CTR and Conversions

Once you understand and have incorporated the requirements set by your advertising network, exchange or similar you can start to include some general best practices to help you run better display advertising campaigns.

Relevant advertising

Marketers and advertisers are able to customise all parts of their buyer’s journey to make it relevant to them. This is also possible to do so with display advertising. Whilst you may want to consider keeping a small portion of your display advertising budget for general networks, you should consider using the majority of your budget for using networks or exchanges that allow you to target your ideal customers online. Studies have shown that relevant advertising is far more effective than general advertising, and users are more likely to click on your ads if they think they are useful. What’s the point in advertising to people who are never ever going to buy your product anyway?


Retargeting campaigns are incredibly effective. Retargeting essentially means that you display ads to those who have already been to your website but have not converted. Retargeted display ads often have a higher click-through rate as they are targeting those who have already expressed an interest in your company.

Dynamic content and feeded ads

Take personalisation and relevancy to the next level with dynamic content display ads. Dynamic content ads use web feeds to feed regularly updating data directly to your display ads. By using this technique, you can always make sure that your display ads are relevant and up-to-date.  If you have a product inventory, sell holiday, exchange rate or have other data such as betting odds or sports results, you should seriously consider using dynamic content to increase your click-through rate.

Copy and call to action

There are a number of best practices that industry experts recommend with regard to display advertising design, as well as how to use copy and call-to-actions. The copy on your display ad should be short and catchy that offers something to viewers that will make them want to click-through. The call-to-action should be strong and eye-catching. The best way to achieve this by using a button asset that will be eye-catching and encourage more viewers to click-through.

Final Thoughts

We can therefore summarise the above discussion into several important key points:

  • Following up-to-date display advertising best practices is important for your ads to be approved by advertising networks;
  • Following display advertising best practices will make your creatives better and more clickable, promoting brand trust;
  • Your ads should always have a clear border, be clearly separate from the rest of the webpage content and not contain fake computer simulations;
  • Any interactivity that you choose to include on your display ad should be genuine;
  • Using advanced features such as retargeting and dynamic content can help increase your CTR;
  • Using good copy and a strong call-to-action can make your display ads more attractive to click on.


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