Banner design is not as simple as coming up with eye-catching, innovative designs and placing them on targeted Web sites.

Effective banner designers and media buyers always evaluate the Web sites on which banners will be displayed before creating a series of ads.

In many instances, so much information clutters a Web page that purchasing advertising space can be a waste of time and money.

The banner can get lost in the clutter and your target audience will ignore the brand and/or the sales message.

For example, many sites display a series of button banners (120 by 60 pixels) or micro banners (88 by 61 pixels) along the left or right edge of a Web page. If you can view these banners on the top part of your screen without having to scroll, and if there aren't a large number of these banners on a single page, purchasing a small banner in this space can give a good return on investment (ROI) and branding opportunities.

However, if the Web site displays 10 banners down the side of the page and all 10 have different animation effects, the resulting page can look cluttered, and the viewing audience will just ignore the whole series of banner advertisements.

Before purchasing ad space on a Web site, we always take the following items into consideration.

Inspect the Neighborhood

Ask yourself what other elements on the page will compete with your banner ad if you decide to advertise.

Other advertisements. Ads can come from your competitors or ads might come from the same company selling the ad space. Regardless, all ads are competing for the same audience attention and your ad must be able to capture the audience's interest from all the other advertisements.

Many Web sites offer multiple slots where banner space can be purchased: top (generally the most expensive), down the left or right side, and bottom. If a banner ad is not placed on the top part of the screen, it is less likely to be noticed.

Even a skyscraper ad -- a very long vertical banner ad occupying the side of a page -- probably will never start at the very top of the page; sometimes users must scroll to see it.

If you have the budget, you are still better off purchasing a banner that runs across the top of the page.

Page content. When people visit Web sites, they're not likely to be searching for your banner ad, but they might be searching for your product or service.

To be effective, your banner ad must offer some kind of incentive for end users to stop what they're doing -- performing a search, reading an article, or comparison shopping -- and click on the banner to visit your Web site. In other words, your banner is competing with Web page content for audience attention.

One of the best decisions a media buyer can make, particularly with click-through banners, is to purchase banners on sites with similar, noncompetitive content. The banner's message can entice the audience by offering an answer not available on the site.

A good example of this type of message is a banner placed in a search engine or directory. Most people using search engines are performing specific searches. If you purchase banner space on search results pages your banner ad might provide the answer to the search.

White space. Look for advertising space that includes a certain amount of open space, or white space, around it. If your ad is to be placed next to content, consider making your banner ad less cluttered with its own graphics and content.