Guide to Designing Effective Mobile Banner Ads

Although banner ads might seem outdated at times, and are often criticized in “professional” mobile advertising literature in favor of newer methods and media, they remain one of the most effective and trustworthy forms of digital marketing. Banner ads are an affordable, measurable, and highly effective way to increase brand awareness and prompt action. They act as your app’s “first impression,” and can go a long way in driving engaged and loyal users to your app.

Here are the key principles you should adhere to when designing your mobile banner ads:

Think Small

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The key to effective mobile banner ads is to design them specifically for smaller screens. It is not just about reducing the size of your regular desktop banners to fit the smaller spaces available on mobile devices, but rather about designing them anew with the small screen in mind.

  • Text – your message must be concise and clear. You should limit your text to no more than eight words, and make sure that every word counts. Use clear and readable fonts, and make sure that they scale well to fit all screen sizes.
  • Color – Use strong colors to contrast with the (often either white or black) background of the page and make your banner stand out. If possible, use your brand colors: it will help increase brand awareness and work well with your other marketing material.
  • Imagery – the banner’s imagery must be simple, obvious, and purposeful, and work coherently with the text to send a clear message. Avoid using unnecessary images and try to keep the banner as clutter-free as possible. In larger banner ads, incorporate compelling screen captures to showcase the app in action and give users a glimpse of the app’s features and capabilities. Make sure to have your brand logo prominently displayed in the ad. Even if viewers fail to click on the ad, it will still help generate brand awareness and increase brand recall.

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  • Call to action – have a strong call to action button in your ad. Make sure it’s clear and identifiable, and has concise wording on it (2-3 words max) like download now, sign up, or download for free. Use contrasting colors to make the button stand out from the rest of the ad, and place it toward the end of the ad (assuming people read the ad from left to right) – at the bottom, right, or bottom right of the ad.

Think Fast

Follow the three seconds rule: can potential users tell what your app does in just three seconds? If not, redesign and simplify your banner ad. This rule applies not only to your banner’s design, but also to its size. When running the test, take into account the time it takes for the banner to load. Try to keep your file under 40k to ensure fast loading time. Remember, it doesn’t matter how brilliantly creative your ad is if it fails to load in time.

Test and Optimize

Always A/B test your designs and measure the impact of your work. Examine your banners systematically – design several banners with small differences between them and test them to see which features are more compelling. Focus on a single feature each time, such as image, text, or color, and optimize it accordingly.

Consider your Timing

Take advantage of contextual trends and seasonal timing. Consider creating special “holiday” and “back-to-school” versions of your banners. Check for prominent events, either tech-oriented (such as Apple’s events), or those related to the contextual world of your app, and design your apps accordingly.





Interested in learning more about designing effective banner ads? Contact us at for a tailor-made marketing plan and strategy consultation.