15/06/20 // Written by Emma Phillips

Display Advertising: Static vs. Animated Banner Ads

Research shows if your campaign creative isn’t up to scratch, you can lose between 50-70 percent of your audience in five to seven seconds. That’s why our campaigns are more than just data-driven. We recognise the importance of creativity in display advertising and believe programmatic ads should be high impact with bold brand imagery, strong messaging and interactive formats.

However, as digital technology has evolved, so too has the evolution of display advertising. A significant part of this is the progression of banner ads, and the role they play in advertising since their inception in 1994. Throughout this blog, we’ll cover how banner ads have developed, compare whether standard versus animated banner ads may be best for you, and what is needed to create a well-designed ad.

Banner ad history 101

Banner ads have been around since the dawn of the world wide web. AT&T purchased the very first display ad in 1994, and 44 percent of people who saw it, clicked on it. At the time of emergence, it was something new users could engage with. But, it was a novelty that soon wore off. Now, among a world filled with static banners, click-through-rates (CTR) have dropped significantly.

At first, only static banners were available, but as technology has evolved and people began experiencing increasingly faster internet connections, animated display ads made their way into the mainstream. Gifs were the pioneering animated formats, quickly followed by Flash and, more recently, HTML5. Animated banner ads could be the engaging alternative you’ve been looking for to attract user attention and increase that all important CTR.

The death of Flash

Flash was once the main piece of software used within the industry. It was seen as the number one for stylish animated designs. Unfortunately, it came with a number of flaws such as end viewers requiring a third-party plugin to view the banner ads. Flash also consumed a lot of resource and drained battery life much more than other file formats.

These flaws were significant in the demise of Flash, especially when more and more users made began browsing on their mobile devices. With HTML5 now on the scene featuring native support in all browsers, faster load speeds and smoother animations, there was no need for Flash banners. Gifs on the other hand, have stood the test of time but today, are now being slowly phased out.

Banners aren’t all bad

Poor old banner ads are usually at the receiving end of a lot of criticism. Many people still associate them with Flash and the flaws that came with it. And to top it off, there are constant new digital ad guidelines and ad blocking software designed to block this often-misunderstood form of advertising.

With all the negative press banner ads receive, you may find yourself thinking, “Why should I invest in digital banner ads at all?” But there are actually many reasons why you should. First and foremost, it’s important to understand what a good banner can do for you:

  • Increase CTR
  • Enhances user experience
  • Provide information to your users

And, what a well-designed banner ad consists of:

  • Structure: The foundations of good banner design. Google has many ad sizes. You need to have a strong yet flexible structure and layout to fit each format, paying special attention to the top-performing sizes. A design that works well as a Leader Board (728×90px) banner won’t necessarily work well as a Skyscraper (120x600px) banner.
  • Graphics & Imagery: You should always aim to use unique images and graphics to help grab the attention of the audience. That being said, images and graphics shouldn’t be used to simply fill up space. Use appropriately and wisely.
  • Typography: Typography is an important design element that helps draw the user’s eye to critical information in the correct order, forming a hierarchy. Having great graphics means nothing if the audience can’t read or understand the message. And, if they can’t understand the message, they won’t click on the ad.
  • Colour: In design, colour is very important. It is capable of evoking strong emotions and building your branded presence.
  • Simplicity: Banner ads are relatively small. You won’t fit the whole story in a Medium Rectangle Ad (300×250px). Keep it simple and get your message across in a clear, concise way.

Static or animated banner ads: which one is right for you?

Now you know what makes an effective banner and what it can do you for your online presence, the question remaining is what type you should go for: static or animated banner ads? The answer depends on a few factors:

  • Your campaign objectives
  • The message you want to convey
  • Your budget

Animated ads don’t get to the CTA quite as quickly as a static banner does. So, if you have a simple and short message to convey, a static banner may be better suited to your campaign. Static ads won’t knock a large hole in your budget either.  

If you’re looking for an animated banner ad, your choice is between a HTML5 banner or a GIF, both of which have their own benefits:

HTML5 banner ads

HTML5 banners are like websites inside mini containers. This newest banner format loads like an ad but consist of multiple lines of code and images. Usually JavaScript and CSS are used to control the animations and transitions.

  • They can be accessed from any device
  • Native web transitions and animation
  • Create highly responsive banner ads for all platforms for a smooth and eye-catching result
  • They’re easier to fit into the size limit. Most ad servers have a size limit of around 150-300kb for banners. Keeping ads under those size limits can be tricky in any format. However, HTML5 ads allow for more complex animations with a wider range of colour at a smaller size than the equivalent banner saved as a GIF.
  • No third-party plugins required to view animation
  • Easy to update
  • Compress better than GIFs

GIF banner ads

GIFs are a series of image frames looping to form movement. Each frame is its own image which can lead to large file sizes.

  • Supported by most web publishers
  • Known to increase CTR
  • Work well with most devices
  • Easy to create and cheaper`
  • Can form eye-catching designs

There are positives and negatives to using either static banners of animated banners. Animated banners will, in general, attract more interest which is the aim of many businesses. When choosing your animated banner ads, it’s important to remember that GIFs are slowly being phased out and the more impressive end result of HTML5 banners make them the better option.


When it comes to display advertising, we believe in mastering the creative as much as the placement. Our in-house Studio team are skilled in creating a range of display advertising formats including responsive ads, video ads, dynamic ads, animated display ads and standard banner ads.

With a data-led, creative approach, we can craft personalised results tailored to your target audience. If you want to know how creatives can help you build engaging display advertising campaigns, contact the team and we’ll be happy to help.