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Chris Miller

What Makes a Great Online Ad?

April 26, 2012

There's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to what advertising works best. However, here are some traits of successful online ad campaigns that should help you find the best results for your clients…or even your own brand.

Many advertisers have discovered the phenomenon of "banner blindness." Banner ads don't tend to get the clicks we'd like, and it's because we treat them like print ads. Unfortunately, people have their personal internal BS detectors set on "hypersensitive" when they're surfing the Web, and often completely overlook content that looks like ads.

So, first, are you doing analog marketing or digital marketing? If you have a store, and you buy a bunch of streaming ads for a sale you're having, and all you want to do is get people into your store, that's an analog campaign. If you are using the power of the Web to track clicks or get people to go to your website for a special offer, that's a digital campaign. Neither one is right or wrong; it all depends on your needs.

Targeting is a huge advantage in online advertising. With the right target, and the right online venue, you're miles ahead when it comes to using your digital marketing dollars most effectively. Finding the right people means you're talking to those folks who see you as a valuable solution to a problem they have, not as someone who's trying to make another sale.

That's why being genuinely helpful, informative, and relevant is a key to being successful online. It's like the difference between a client viewing you as just another radio seller versus a trusted marketing adviser. Be less about promoting, and more about sincerely explaining the benefits of what you offer.

Media brands, like radio stations, have a big advantage over many other sites. When people see ads on a site that they trust, they are more likely to trust the ads on that site, too. This is where our branding and heritage pays off for our clients. An ad that appears on a reputable brand site overcomes some of the general distrust that many Web surfers still have about the Web.

When you invite people to click for more information, where you send them matters in creating the right impression. If you send them to a splashy page that's basically an ad, that won't do much to build a relationship with them. It's better to send them to a special targeted offer, or a page of helpful information about your product, or even a page of honest reviews from your other customers.

When you make a special offer, remember that the creativity and size of the offer makes an impression and says something about you. Potential customers are also hearing lots of different promotional offers, so you want yours to stand out. The better and more targeted your special offer is, the more likely your target is to share it digitally with others.

Finally, remember the advantage in the price of online advertising. Clients who can't afford to or shouldn't buy broadcast advertising can find the right target, and even build up a huge share of voice against that target, with the right budget and schedule. As accountable as advertising in the digital space is, it's much easier to figure out what works and what doesn't work for any one client, too.

Chris Miller has been a major-market PD in Atlanta, Portland and Cleveland. He now operates Chris Miller Digital, which he launched. Visit his website at
Contact Chris via e-mail, or 216-236-3955.