People don’t pay much attention to ads (or so they say), and who can blame them?
In this digital age, there’s more clutter than ever to cut through. Researchers estimate that online users interact with over 10,000 ads on the daily — so many that some 27% of U.S.-based online users currently run ad blockers.
Spending on intent-driven design and display ad copy has grown astronomically in recent years: total digital advertising spending in the United States is estimated to hit $271 billion in 2023.
That’s why it’s critical to cut through the noise. And trust me, you can. Marketers know they can tailor display ad copy to yield ample click-throughs and conversions — you just need the right combination of empathetic, affecting copy and seamless design.
That’s why we’ve put together some examples of display ads that do exactly that as well as our best advice on crafting display ad copy that connects with audiences far and wide (or at least your target location). So let’s get started!
How do you create a successful display ad?
Online ad writing should be concise, yet compelling: its sole purpose is ultimately to convert. Yet getting people to click on ads isn’t quite so simple. With such a limited character count, you need to immediately engage viewers in just a few powerful, actionable words. For this reason, companies usually turn to professional copywriters to handle display ad writing.
3 examples of great display ad creative
Let’s look at some of our favorite examples from out in the wild. While each example works a bit differently, they’re used at the right time and place, and serve as great models for display ads that generate clicks and lead to conversions.
1. Google Fiber
This Google display ad is short and sweet—like all effective display ads should be. In just 12 words, the concise message and tranquil blue coloring prove that fluffy copy isn’t necessary.
When people were adjusting to work-from-home life during the pandemic, with lagging internet connections and stark overage charges, “Stream,” and “unlimited internet,” was all they needed to hear to get the point. Two short sentences establish the value proposition clearly and concisely.
The ad’s casual, sentence-case typeface also drives the copy home, resulting in a minimalist, yet effective display ad that relates to the internet bandwidth issues of the lockdown era.
Diib is an online software service that scans your site to make recommendations for improving SEO performance. Their Facebook display ad copy targets users with limited time by pointing out its 60-second scan. Next, the writer references its reputation, “as mentioned in Entrepreneur,” followed by a list of benefits using all-caps to make the words Plan, Free, and Pro stand out.
The bright, high contrast colors are eye-catching and clearly legible. At a glance, you’re able to understand what this company is offering and how quickly you can expect it. I have no idea if it works, but for 60-seconds and for free, I’m willing to check it out!
Moz uses 17 words on its LinkedIn ad. The brand knows its LinkedIn audience is full of professionals skimming the page, looking for quick ideas to improve their business. As with the Google ad we looked at above, the Moz brand is well-known, so all they need to do is establish what they’re offering clearly and concisely and let the word “Free” do the rest.
8 best practices for writing display ad copy
While the average reader is a tried and true skimmer, they’ll always pay attention to word choice. Forcing keywords into unintelligible sentences or creating ads that differ from your typical brand look and feel are major no-nos.
Not to mention, this can decrease your return on investment (ROI) or harm your brand’s reputation. Utilize the following best practices so you can craft digital copy that captivates your readers without annoying them:
1. Make sure your display ads target the right audience
Remember: if you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no one at all. If you’re not identifying and connecting with your audience, you risk just shouting into the void, like so many ads do.
High-converting copy involves a smattering of data science, psychology, and creative research. Before you can develop a targeted ad campaign, you want to identify your target audience and understand their problem, while also accounting for platform differences.
When writing your digital ad, consider:
- Ad specifications for each channel, specifically character limits for headlines, body text and descriptions.
- Market research regarding your target audience’s cross-platform user experience.
- Establishing buyer personas to help picture the person you’re starting a conversation with.
- How your competitors leverage display ad copy in headlines and calls to action (CTAs).
- Unique features in ads that grab your attention, such as statistics or social proof.
- Demographics, behavioral traits, and psychographics of your audience segment.
- The emotions triggered by a specific pain point.
2. Effective display ads align copy with brand identity
It’s easy to get caught up in your writing and forget that it needs to match a certain style. Your display ad copy should complement the ad graphics, harmonize with the linked landing page and, above all, match your brand identity’s tone and tenor.
Read through your landing page, website, and social media copy––then read them again. Next, confer with your brand guidelines, even if this is your 20th time doing so. Knowing your brand identity inside and out will make it way easier to write consistently excellent copy.
3. Practice empathy in your display ad copy
You don’t need a psychology degree to understand how humans work. There’s also no need to rely on clickbait tactics. Instead, try to incite an emotional response using effective, intuitive copy.
There are different ways to go about this technique. Tapping into the broadly used fear of missing out (FOMO) is a highly effective method. The human mind wants to stay connected and in-touch, so combining this sense of urgency with a “me” factor, urging people to take action now to get what they want.
Adding a timeframe to your message by saying “today” or “before taxes come due” can remind shoppers that time isn’t unlimited. You also can agitate the ad viewer by presenting something they love alongside something they hate while positioning your brand to give them more of one and less of the other.
4. Hone in on search intent and specific queries
All the persuasive tactics in the world won’t help if you don’t match search intent. You can craft the best headline and spend hours creating the perfect copy. But, if your in-their-face “buy now” advert pops up when viewers search for a do-it-yourself trick, your misguided ad will either get ignored, or worse: aggravated shoppers will note you as a company not to do business with.
There’s definitely a science behind writing data-driven display ad copy. For example, pricing is a real motivator with some products. Including a figure in your headline or body copy can increase conversions. However, it can have the opposite effect in other instances.
So dig into why people are using specific keywords to search and learn what results they expect to pop up. Then write some ad copy that satisfies search queries and matches their intent.
5. Obsess over your display ad headline
Your headline is the first and sometimes only thing people see and pay attention to. Make it clear and compelling, and rework it many times before settling on the final copy. In some cases, adding your value proposition to the headline can drive click-throughs.
For instance, if you sell jeans for tall women, feel free to say “over 50 tall styles” to differentiate your business from the other ads saying the same thing — “If you need tall jeans, our brand sells them.” You can also test the use of negative words in your headline to agitate or evoke emotion, such as avoid, stop, never, or worst.
6. Write display ads for people, not just for search engines
You’ve researched your target audience. You understand their problem. Now write your display ad directly to them, and be sure to use “you” or “your” in the copy. Reference their fears or objections, and position your brand as the ultimate solution to their issue. Use your words to help people visualize the benefit of clicking on your ad right now.
Additionally, you can use your copy to qualify buyers and get more clicks from your target audience. For example, if you sell audiobooks for kids and want to promote your latest toddler book, start with a line saying, “Are you a parent with a toddler who refuses to sleep?”
7. Perfect your call-to-action (CTA)
Like your headline, your CTA and the text on the CTA button are extremely important. Everyone feels tired and decision-fatigued. Tell them what to do next, and if your copy already attracted their attention, then there’s a good chance they’ll follow along to the next step.
Your CTA should match exactly what the person will do when they arrive on your landing page, so it’s vital to use your display ad copy and CTA to tell them what comes next. Most CTA buttons use a short one to three-word CTA, such as:
- Get started
- Sign up
- Try it free
- Shop now
- Learn More
8. Perform A/B testing
No first draft of anything is perfect, let alone the first trial of a display ad. It’s best to create two versions of the same ads with varying copy, tweaks to design elements, and
Lastly, don’t assume your digital ad copy is the best it can be. A/B tests are crucial to achieving a high click-through rate (CTR) and improving ROI. Marketing during a recession or slow time is rough, so get the most of your ads by testing them.
A singular word change to your headline or CTA can have drastic results, so create two versions of your ad and see which one performs better. Then, keep creating, testing, and reworking.
Frequently asked questions about display ads
How do you measure the success of a display ad campaign?
Everything on the internet produces a lot of data, and display ads are no exception. There are lots of different ways to look at the metrics, and each way you slice them will offer different insights into the effectiveness of your ad campaign. Knowing the total number of impressions (i.e. people who at least saw your ad) will help you determine your rates of engagement. Your click-through-rate (CTR) will offer insight into how many people were at least compelled to take some action by your ad, but you’ll want to track the cost-per-conversion (CPC) to determine just how many people went from viewing your ad to performing the action you wanted.
When should I use display ads?
Display ads are important for establishing brand awareness and consistency. While this varies depending on the business you’re in, customers typically take some time between learning your business exists and patronizing it. Display ads are like digital billboards: before customers ever even click on your ads, they establish your presence. Customers gain awareness on the margins — enough so that when they do start thinking about buying that product or subscribing to that service, you’re there at the front of the pack: a known entity that they’ve encountered before that they’re willing to try out.
How much should I budget for display ads?
It’s hard to provide a general answer here because amounts will vary greatly depending on the business you’re in, the size of your audience and the difficulty of reaching them, your marketing goals, etc. Working with an agency will help you get a clear sense of what your goals should be ahead of time.
Make your display ad copy shine
Words are hard, but they’re the bread and butter of a solid display ad campaign. While they help mold perceptions and drive conversion, a successful campaign is driven by empathetic copy, sleek design, and a connection made between brand and user.
Understanding your target market, using display ad copy best practices, and testing your ad can help you build an enticing ad campaign.
If you’re unsure about effective display ad writing, reach out to our digital marketing team. We’re happy to help you explore ways to get the best return on your investment. Contact us to chat about copywriting for your short or long-term needs.