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FutureNow Article
Friday, Feb. 15, 2008

When a Banner Ad Becomes a One-Click Stand

By Peter Lee
February 15th, 2008

Holidays are a great time to advertise. Because of the emotional context, marketers know people will be especially attracted to holiday-themed ads. Valentine’s Day is no exception: You can almost set your clock to the sudden rush of banners strewn with cheesy hearts, bears and candy kisses.

Banner ads, once clicked, usually evoke the confusion of Alice’s rabbit hole more than the come-what-may optimism of Forrest’s box of chocolates — either way, you don’t know what to expect.

Grabbing attention is tough, and most of us are jaded from past letdowns. So, to work, a banner campaign must direct traffic, showing visitors what they’ll get and why they’ll want it.

Who You Lookin’ At?

One way to get attention is by showing models. TracFone is an example of a company that puts on a human face (albeit a scowling one). Let’s take a look at one of their banners to see how they might improve conversion…

The Valentine’s Day motif grabs attention, as do the girls’ faces, which seem to be looking straight at you. But eye-tracking studies show that we’re drawn to models’ eyes. We end up mesmerized, ignoring the critical parts of the ad.

The folks at TracFone should read Bryan’s post, “How a Pretty Face Can Push Visitors Away.”

Since our attention stays on the faces and eyes, TracFone’s benefits are lost in the background. The all-caps name “XOXOFONE” frames the faces, further keeping the eyes on the upper left-hand side. A simple change in the direction of the eyes to the lower-right side of the ad would direct visitors to the call to action and company logo. (Besides, it might make these girls look like they’re not going to yell at the first guy who invites them to Prom via TracFone.)

Oh, No They Di’int…

From the banner ad, visitors are sent to this busy landing page:

Tracfone presents big, bright red hearts as a marker to connect the visitor. Yet they fail to build persuasive momentum. At this critical stage, the visitor isn’t brought deeper into the buying process. Instead of continuing the scent trail [define] of information, TracFone introduces new information and visuals that create a disconnect with the banner ad it was designed to support.

If TracFone were a Future Now client, here are a few things we’d have them test:

1. Don’t Look at Me! — When using models, make sure the eyes aren’t the focal point. Use an image that directs the visitors’ eyes toward the call to action. Let the copy drive the click.

2. Buy When? — Don’t propose marriage on the first date. There’s almost never enough info on a banner ad to convince someone they should actually “buy now.” Try flirting instead.

3. Consistency is Key — Build on the information and images on the landing page. Help would-be customers make the connection. People will quickly lose momentum to move forward if you present different prices, copy and images than they saw in the ad.

[Editor's Note: Tired of one-click stands? Sick of hiring gold-diggers who don't return the investment? Bring home a conversion analysis your CFO would approve of.]

Add Your Comments

Comments (10)

  1. Hi Peter,
    Fantastic post. I love the breakdown of why this ad needs help.

    I’m also not feelin’ the “Let’s Talk About Love” tagline, it looks more like “let’s talk about gossip” with the models they chose. Wouldn’t a Valentine’s promotion work better with a guy and girl? Even if the ad was suggesting these 2 are dating, the expressions and body language say “attitude,” not romance.

    This looks like a failed back-to-school ad.

  2. [...] When a Banner Ad Becomes a One-Click Stand [...]

  3. Great post. Have you ever looked at what happens when companies show models in ads at weird angles or with parts of their limbs seemingly cut off? I seem to remember Starch Roeper studies show that these can put prospects off too. Anyway, I plan to highlight your post on our blog tomorrow. It is a great practical example and well written. Thank you.

  4. The hearts on the banner ad don’t match the hearts on the landing page. The landing page has hearts with drop-shadows, and the ad has embossed looking hearts. A minor thing, but subconsciously it might have an effect.

    Also, it’s not really a landing page they’re taking the visitor to, it’s a website, so the navigation at the top could potentially drive them away from the offer.

    This page is so busy I get confused. The “One Year Card Special Offer” content in the middle of the page seems to be duplicated, except for the graphic treatment and the phone. I have to think about what makes these different.

    The banner ad promotes the C139, but then they throw the V170 and W370 onto the landing page, which really confuses things. If they’re going to feature those, the C139 should be prominent, since the banner ad is promoting it.

  5. Art lets you see the world. Design lets you change the world. Art, in a way, hides something. Design reveals. Thank you for very good post and great models.

  6. Man, what a great post! It’s amazing what little about the online marketing process big companies really know.

  7. [...] emails and comments from people who want to know the secret. They've read a few posts on website optimization testing, but they're disillusioned. Their tests haven't been effective [...]

  8. [...] Peter Lee heeft er werk van gemaakt een banner te testen op usability. Hier zijn aardige zaken uit te leren voor iedereen die wel eens een banner [...]

  9. [...] Peter Lee heeft er werk van gemaakt een banner te testen op usability. Hier zijn aardige zaken uit te leren voor iedereen die wel eens een banner [...]

  10. It’s great to read an informative post on creative(banner) design. Oftentimes, I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out the best responding display ad that will produce the highest CTR.

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