Although there are three types of banner ad campaigns, the banner ads that support those campaigns have many similarities. These common elements will drive the majority of the design process, while specific campaign goals will dictate a few key design differences. Understand the fundamentals of creating an effective banner ad regardless of the type of campaign.

Set Your Banner Ad Design Budget
You may think it makes sense to be stingy with design dollars, saving most of your banner advertising budget for buying prime ad space. Think again. That's like spending top dollar for Park Avenue retail space and then putting a hot dog stand there. When setting your design budget, be sure to consider all the costs involved, including required software tools, hourly costs of creative personnel (especially those who might be pulled away from other projects), and project or consulting fees for professional design assistance.

Decide Whether to Design Banner Ads In-House or to Outsource
Careful planning and research up front will save you time and money later in the banner ad creation process. If you want to create the ad in-house, you first need to make sure that the resources ? including creative talent and the necessary software ? are available. If the scope of the banner ad design is beyond the resources of your team, you'll want to hire a professional designer or firm.

Tailor Your Banner Ad to Your Target Market
Imagine spending thousands of dollars on a terrific TV ad campaign, only to discover that your target customers don't own TV sets. That's just about what happens when companies create banner ads that confound viewers' hardware, software, and/or Internet resources. This section of the checklist will help you ensure that your banner ads match the technical capabilities of your audience.

Create a Message that Is Appropriate for the Campaign
The common elements of banner ad design -- budgeting, finding a designer, and choosing appropriate technology -- have gotten you this far. Now it's time to decide exactly what text, images, or combination thereof will fill the banner space. This is where campaign objectives influence design. You'll want to review your goals for the type of campaign you're running (branding, click-through, or sell-through) because each type has important and unique design considerations.

Test Your Banner Ad Design
The hard part is over: You have a slick banner ad to show for your effortand expense. However, before you launch your ad to the world, take some timeto make sure it does what it's supposed to do. All major design firms testtheir TV ads -- why should you treat Web ads any differently?One of the nice things about the Web is that it's possible to perform testsand obtain results quickly. It's also relatively easy to make changes. Thereare two approaches that you can take, depending on your budget and the amount of time you'veallocated for testing. First, you can assemblean informal trial user group composed of your employees and arepresentative sampling of your customers. Ask them to review the site andprovide concrete feedback on what they like and what they don't like. Implementthe changes that you believe are appropriate, but make sure you acknowledgeall the feedback. Second, you can invest in more formal,professional testing provided by consulting firms. This kind of testing isparticularly useful for ensuring that your links and navigation work exactlyas they should.

Keep Your Banner Ad Design Fresh
Even the best banner ads lose their luster over time. The banner ad design process is not static; you must continually review your banners to ensure you're always getting the most out of your advertising dollars. Chances are you'll need to update banners quite frequently. This may involve making small design modifications, changing hyperlink destinations, or revamping the ad altogether to accommodate a shift in campaign objectives.

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