Pssst. I’ve got a job for you. “Banners that whisper are more likely to be listened to than banners which shout.” That’s the view of Artie Romero, and he should know. Artie is the head guy at Artie Romero Graphics in Colorado Springs, CO, a company whose banner ads consistently achieve click through rates of 17-20%! In a medium where the typical respone rate is 1-3%, his company considers any banner which doesn’t get at least 5% a dismal failure. The debate over banner ads turns on their ability to generate an adequate return–measured in the number of people who click through to view a job openings–to justify their relatively high investment cost. At click through rates of 1-3%, the ads are a dicey proposition. At 10%, however, they’re a good investment, and at 20%, you’ve hit a home run! So, how does Romero do it? According to Diane Propsner of DMP Internet Recruiting Solutions, “Artie’s magic is in understanding the psychology of banner advertising and what gets people to respond.” She used Romero’s firm to design an ad for one of her clients. The company, a major telecommunications firm, paid $150 for his creative work, and the banner generated a click through rate of almost 15%. Romero has been achieving that kind of result since the Fall of 1997. That’s when he began to study the banner performance data displayed on a site called Smart Clicks (www.smartclicks.com). Based on his research, he devised a set of principles which are now the foundation for every ad his firm develops. The following is a subset of “Romero’s Rules for Good Banner Ad Designs”: ** Interfaces. Romero has discovered that people using the Internet and the World Wide Web are “trained” to recognize and use certain interface conventions. These conventions include the frame around a screen and the elements which consistently appear within that frame, most of which were devised by Microsoft as a part of its Windows environment. Romero’s banners incorporate these interfaces in their design because people are familiar and comfortable with them, and that, in turn, makes the people who see the banner more likely to notice and use its features. ** Animation. “Animation is good up to a point, but less is more.” The best banners have enough animation to attract the eye, but not so much as to be loud and obnoxious. How much is enough? Romero believes that a flashing cursor is the ultimate in animation. Equally as good is a check box which produces an “X” or some other mark when it is clicked. Flashing logos and words, on the other hand, simply turn people off. ** Color. As behavioral research determined long ago, people are attracted to certain colors and repulsed by others. That principle has long been applied to print advertising, but seems to have been lost in banner ad design. Romero points out that many banners are done in red, black and gray, a color scheme he says is guaranteed to produce a click through rate of 1% or less. Why? Because psychologically, red is an angry color and black is depressing. In contrast, if your banner incorporates a green and yellow color scheme, it may look ugly, even on the screen, but it will generate a higher than average click through rate because green is soothing and yellow is cheerful. The reason these and other principles work, Romero believes, is simple: people don’t want to go to a place that is uncomfortable, unpleasant or unfamiliar. Web advertising is pull marketing, while television advertising is push marketing. To work effectively, therefore, banner ads must welcome people into their space by enticing them with something they value, enjoy or recognize positively. Far too many banner ads today do just the opposite. Their blinking logos and overheated animation, their depressing colors and unfamiliar designs scare all but the most intrepid away … and that’s about 1-3% of the population.
Peter Weddle is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. Described by The Washington Post as "... a man filled with ingenious ideas," he has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, National Business Employment Weekly and CNN.com. His most recent books include Circa 2118: What Will Humans Do When Machines Take Over and A Prescription for the Soul: A Historical Novel About Boomers & the American Dream, both of which are available at Amazon.com. An Airborne Ranger, Weddle is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has attended Oxford University and holds graduate degrees from the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.