Your online ad has two jobs:
1) entice a Web surfer to click;
2) build brand awareness.
A successful online ad campaign, designed for either of these purposes, uses attractive, appropriate, attention-getting banners using rich media.
When the focus of a banner is to build brand awareness, your banner is like a résumé, the sole purpose of which is to get interviews. A surfer may not click on your banner, but if he sees it enough times your (company) name is drilled into his head, and he may think of you at some later time when he's in a shopping mode. Designing a banner to build brand awareness is different than designing for maximum clickthroughs. A branding banner will obviously display the brand name and logo prominently, while a "click-me" banner might be more coy about what's being sold, to entice people to click and find out. Many good banners, of course, have elements of both approaches.
Creating a banner that offers free beer or rolex watches would probably get phenomenal clickthrough, but unless you' really giving something away, don't cry wolf or your subscribers will remember this on subsequent emails. It isn't good enough to make a banner that makes people want to click - you need a banner that makes the right kind of people click. Research has shown that people tend to click more often when specifically invited to "Click Here" so most banners should at least include that "magic phrase".
Keep in mind the kind of person you want to click on your banner. Then, craft a visual message the way you would a showroom or a window, and an overall look for the banner. One of the best ways to maximize clickthrough is to have lots of different banners, and change them frequently throughout the course of a campaign. Keep this in mind when designing banners, and design an assortment to rotate through.
Sometimes, just a tiny difference in design makes a big difference in click rates, so instead of striving for the perfect version of a banner idea, keep several alternate versions and try them all out.
Make people feel like they're going to get something if they click. A free goodie, a useful tip, a joke, or a special offer. Even if all you're offering is information, make it obvious that something is going to happen when they click, not just display another web page.
One time-honored way to encourage clickthrough is to pose a question. Not just an abstract question like "How would you like to solve all your problems?" but real questions to which viewers might like to know the answer to.
There is definitely more to consider when launching online advertising - call CT Design Online and let us put our expertise to work for you!