How to Design Digital Display Ads for B2B's: 5 Questions to Katarzyna Rosinska


A digital display ad campaign can be a very efficient marketing tool to build awareness and trust in a company. For B2B companies, a display ad campaign can be the first step in an Account Based Marketing effort. So how can you ensure that the ad will live up to its potential? We asked Katarzyna Rosinska, Project Manager at Vendemore, what's important to consider when designing a digital display ad campaign for a B2B: 

What are the keys to an efficient B2B and/or Account Based Advertising Campaign?

Katarzyna: It's important to consider the whole user journey, i.e. not only the digital display ad but also the landing page and the expected action. Don't view the ad as a stand-alone offering, but as a tool to initiate a buyer's journey. See it as the first point of contact and door opener to the website's richer content. The ad must visually resemble the landing page and the copy should work as a teaser, rather than tell the whole story. The landing page must pick up the promise given by the ad and provide valuable information to the visitor, leading them to explore the topic further and best case, to convert.

How do you to design an attention-grabbing display ad?

Katarzyna: In my experience, there is a difference between B2B and B2C in this aspect. Colours, copy, and call to action theoretically work in the same way, but where B2C messages tend to be very direct and click-to-buy oriented - (imagine a nice pair of shoes on sales), B2B values tend to be things like increased efficiency, quality, or reduced cost. The language, the words, are often quite complex and targeted to people with the right background and competence.  

It can be more difficult to find catchy headlines and colourful images when the product may be rather - excuse me for being blunt - boring. A service offering can be even more challenging to illustrate as the main differentiator is the advertiser's skilled personnel. However, as a B2B tend to have much longer sales cycles, this clear segmentation of the readers is a strength. In Account Based Advertising (IP-based) one already knows which companies will read the ad, so the message and the visuals can be very specific to the targeted reader.

My advice would be to dare to think outside the corporate guidelines and use bright colours or humour to catch the eye. It is important when aiming at starting a buyer's journey, to trigger a positive feeling, not a click. When the time is right for the audience to start discussing the topic, they should remember you with a positive sense. The display ad campaign should have placed your company top of mind.

What would you say is the most common mistake when designing a B2B display ad?

Katarzyna: When planning a B2B or account-based advertising campaign, focus on the audience - the buyer. A common mistake is to focus too much on what you, the advertiser, want to show and say: the product and/or a direct comparison with the competition.

The audience usually is more interested in what problems the product or service can solve for them. To engage the reader, focus on a benefit that is truly valuable to them and adapt your message accordingly. In Account Based Advertising, you can use different messages and ads towards different target accounts, so there is no reason to use one ad and message to all. The more specific the message, the more likely that the ad will earn engagement.

Have you any examples of ads that have worked well and generated engagement?

Katarzyna: I have a few examples from working with clients recently:

  • A smart sense of humour or a word play can work really well. I worked with an investment company recently, whose message to convey was very serious. To stand out from the crowd they dared to use a headline which was informative, yet humorous, which caught the attention. The display ad earned a lot of engagement and the traffic to their website increased.
  • Pictures of the advertiser's employees in certain roles can be very efficient, such as a technical expert or the Key Account Manager who works with the target account. These serve to build trust in the company overall and to build a relationship with the person featured in the ad. We've seen very good results of using this type of ads in several of the campaigns I've worked with. 
  • A special case is when a company targets a campaign towards its own employees. I've recently worked with a large company that used account-based advertising towards their own organisation to encourage the personnel after a larger reorganisation: The purpose was to make the employees feel committed and proud. This type of semi-internal campaigns tends to earn a lot of clicks and engagement.

What is the best way to design an ad that generates clicks?

Katarzyna: This is the million-dollar question... The easiest answer is that you must test and refine. I'd recommend to start with 2 versions of an ad and see which one generates the most clicks, then adapt and test again.

Copy and design of an ad must always support each other, but when it comes to generating clicks, the copy seems to be more important than the visuals and shorter copy is usually better then a long copy text.

Whether an ad should be animated or not you can siscuss, but there are studies that show that non-animated ads earn slightly higher click rate. However, it can be argued that the animation probably earns more eye-balls as it grabs the attention on an otherwise non-animated media site.
Call-to-action button (CTA) or not? A CTA is usually efficient if the goal of the campaign is to generaate clicks, but if the goal primarily is to raise awareness and build the brand, the CTA may take valuable space in the ad. It's more important to have a good CTA on the landing page. Inspired by the campaign, people will find their way to the landing page not only through the ad. Then it's important that the page is built to make them convert. For your website, make sure there are possibilities to contact you, download more information, Etc., but avoid long forms asking for very detailed information about the visitor.

In this context, it's important to remember that the clicks should not be seen as the ultimate sign that a B2B campaign is working well. Most people who view the ad won't click anyway!

The prime strength of a display ad campaign is to build top-of-mind awareness over time. If the target audience is exposed to the ad many times, they will remember the advertiser and, best case, have a subconscious trust in this company. Then later, maybe much later when the time is right, they will contact the company to discuss the solution. That's the true sign that your B2B digital ad display ad worked well.

Related blogs:
How to set goals for B2B advertising 

4 types of advertising to drive B2B sales

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