iPad ad format selection

6 Best Practices for Digital Display Ad Design

Before designing your next digital display ad campaign, here’s what you should know.

Why do some digital display ads perform better than others, even when they’re running on the same website? Ad format plays a role. Where the ad is placed on the website matters, too. Underneath those layers, though, there is a foundational element that impacts ad engagement more than anything else.


Ad design plays a bigger role in the outcome of digital campaigns than any other single factor. How an ad appears across devices and how clearly the call-to-action (CTA) is communicated determines how likely a visitor is to click or engage. Strong imagery, whether it’s a photo, illustration, or animation, can take a basic digital display ad to a whole new level.

At Broadstreet, we’ve seen thousands of digital display ad designs in just the past few years. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve developed a clear understanding of how small adjustments in imagery, or the addition of rich media content, can lead to major improvements in click-through rates.

Here are six best practices to follow for digital display ad design.

1. Verbiage & Imagery 

Adding the right verbiage and imagery — especially imagery — is one of the fastest ways to get more traction on an ad. It can help you cure ad blindness—when website visitors scroll past an ad without noticing it. That means choosing a tagline and images that are attractive, fun, witty, etc and will resonate.

2. Multiple (and Big) Sizes

As a best practice, the Interactive Advertising Bureau recommends that ad sizes be flexible to make it easier for website visitors to view ads across different-sized screens. Responsive creatives adapt based on the size of a user’s screen. Paying attention to the top performing display ad sizes can help you drill down and refine your campaigns. The most common digital ad sizes currently are 300×250, 336×280, and 728×90. That said, the newest sizes, 970×250 and 4:1 offer the most room for great imagery — producing the highest click-through rates.

3. Branding Style Guidelines

Branding style guidelines can keep campaigns feeling cohesive. If you’re running digital display ads across multiple websites, or your company is running multiple campaigns simultaneously, then it’s a good idea to be consistent with fonts, colors, logos, and other branding elements. Keeping branding consistent from one ad to another helps with recall. Choose a simple color palette and construct a typography hierarchy to make sure your most important messaging stands out. 

4. Creative Rich Media

Boring ads don’t get clicks. When it comes to digital display ad design, now is the time to get creative and use unique content to grab attention. Ads that utilize rich media with video, GIFs, and hovers generate more excitement, engagement, and clicks than static images. Rich media encourages viewers to interact with the content. Ad managers like Broadstreet Ads make it easy to design ads with rich media, so you can sell rich media ad packages like glossy image galleries, scrolling events listings, and video ads.

5. Clear CTA

Unique images and compelling ad copy are important to quality ad design, but nothing beats a strong CTA. A CTA placed in a prominent position is the key to generating clicks from a display ad. The CTA should be the most visually distinct part of a well-designed ad. When you’re designing a digital display ad, don’t be afraid to push the logo to the side and place the CTA front and center.

6. Optimized Advertising

The most successful campaigns work across devices. The way people browse the internet and engage with advertising is highly variable depending on the device. For example, research shows consumers are more likely to browse on mobile devices in their leisure time, and desktop devices when they’re at work. Additionally, mobile ad spend tends to increase on the weekends. If you’re ignoring mobile formats, you could be missing out on valuable clicks. As a best practice, it’s recommended that advertisers design display ads using responsive techniques. Responsive designs adapt automatically depending on a user’s device, so the size, appearance, and format is always optimized.

Key Takeaways

Thoughtful design trumps all else. If you’re looking for a way to fight back against ad blindness—the tendency for people to ignore page elements they believe to be ads—then having an ad that stands out is the solution. Coupling rich media and high-quality images with a strong CTA button will capture your audience’s attention and get them interested in what you’re offering. Punchy ad copy can also be used to establish urgency and give users a reason why they want to learn more.

Go ahead and give these design principles a try in your next digital display ad design. For more information about the best ways to impress advertisers and design ads that deliver top performance, click here.

Shout Out

Subscribe to Our Blog

Stay up to date with the latest marketing, sales, and service tips and news.