Are Banner Ads Effective in the Science Sectors?

A look at the effectiveness of banner advertising within the science sectors and 7 steps for an effective banner ad.

Banner advertising is one of the most common forms of digital advertising within the science and pharma publishing industry. They play an important role in the revenue streams for those publishers.

However, the effectiveness of banner advertising in general has long come under fire from all corners of the internet.


A Think with Google study found that the average click-through rate of display ads across all formats and placements is 0.6%. Other studies have determined that average click-through rates are lower again, generally concluding that most people do not click on banners ads. This isn't the only issue.

Statista suggests that 41% of respondents from a survey on the use of ad blocking software in the UK (2018) said they use an ad blocker. Meaning that a little under half of the population in the UK won’t even see the ad to be able to click. This is worrying signs for advertisers and publishers where it would seem that banner advertising is not effective, not is it feasible. But with a strategic approach, this isn’t always the case.


It is best to adopt banner advertising as a marketing tactic within a wider campaign. Banner ads that have no relevance to the user, that appear randomly and are intrusive, are completely irrelevant to the user and will not get clicks. This is predominantly the reason why banner advertising statistics are low.

I have previously visited a website for support when using a product, to later find that a banner ad is targeting me on another site. Only to realise that the banner ad is offering a discounted rate on a product for new customers. Completely irrelevant and a little insulting, and there are many examples of when banner advertising is completely irrelevant.

But if banner ads are used strategically, as part of a wider campaign, then they can demonstrate results for the advertiser. And if advertisers keep a close eye on their digital display and banner advertising placements, particularly avoiding placing banners in areas where the advert hinders the user’s website experience, the overall banner advert will be more successful.


Banner ads still have a role to play for the pharmaceutical marketer in the science sectors and the contract manufacturing organisation.

In this article, we will assume that banner ads are placed on a publisher within the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors’ website, where we know the audience. Rather than via Google’s Display Network or via social media where the banner ad’s impressions can come from unknown users, potentially irrelevant to the sectors we operate within.

Banner ads can achieve either of these 3 objectives:


Banner advertising does have the potential to send traffic to a website, and when the placement is done correctly, the likelihood of that visitor being interested in your products and services is high. Of course, the likelihood of the banner generating vast amounts of traffic in the first place is low. But when you consider banner advertising as part of a wider ecosystem of marketing tactics, banner ads can contribute to other marketing objectives as well as traffic generation.


Banner advertising also contributes to building brand awareness. An advertiser could run a banner ad on a publisher’s website, and also commission an article on the website, buy an email broadcast to the publisher’s list as well as carry out an A4 spread in the publisher’s physical magazine. This way the message is spread across a number of channels and has the ability to stick, where the banner ad itself also has the ability to generate an (albeit slightly) higher click-through rate as the content is already familiar.


Banner advertising can also increase the conversion rate of an overall marketing campaign by adopting banner ads for retargeting. Retargeting is a tactic where the ads are targeted to visitors based on previous actions. Retargeting tags users by including a pixel within the target web page or email, which sets a cookie in the user's browser. This ad targeting method is perfectly suited for social media and the Google Display Network.

For the majority of websites and campaigns, only 2% of traffic converts on the first visit. But retargeting campaigns, such as retargeting banner ads, can increase this rate by reminding users about a product or service. To demonstrate this, a study found that retargeting banner ads are 70% more likely to complete the original desired action.


There is a time and a place for banner advertising. If you have discovered that time and place, there are also a number of factors to consider when designing a banner to have the best possible chance of success.

Here are seven steps to follow:


A banner ad should always be consistent with the brand that is being advertised. Brand awareness is just as important as generating interest, therefore, the advert should have the same look and feel of the advertiser's website design, for example. From the visual style to the tone of the copy used within the ad, everything needs to remain “on brand” and should include your logo. A banner ad is just like any other marketing material from an organisation.


Of course, the banner ad needs to incorporate the brand for which it is promoting and should look to stand out. However, advertisers need to respect the fact that the visitor has willingly visited the publisher’s website, and therefore, albeit the ad needs to stand out, it also needs to have some consistency with the publisher's website from a visual perspective.


The effectiveness of a banner advert mostly relies on the ad itself. The ad, from top to bottom, follows a sequential hierarchy that starts with the brand logo, followed by a heading and a subheading, followed by a call-to-action (CTA). It’s also advisable that the ad includes a visual element to support the copy and draw attention to the banner, maybe using an image related to the product, service, brand or target segment. Often, this is a lot to include within a standard 300x250px banner and advertisers should also ensure that the banner itself isn’t confusing or crowded.


The text on the page should be instantly readable, just like the 7 steps within this blog post all have subtitles for signposting. On the banner, this means that the font should be standard and font size to fit according to the space on the banner. The banner ad will have a second or so to communicate the message to the site visitor and should be short and instantly digestible.


The CTA is possibly the most important element of the banner ad as it prompts the user to act on the message within the banner ad. Every banner ad should have one, even if the primary objective of the banner ad is to generate brand awareness. A good CTA creates a sense of urgency, is direct and seeks to reduce friction for the site visitor. The CTA button should be distinct and recognisable and not too small that it could be ignored.


For website visitors to notice banner ads it is imperative that the banners jump out from the rest of the content of the web page. Animation is a great way to generate attention as well as demonstrate the products or service you are promoting. Here, we are not talking about autoplay videos, rather a banner consisting of a small number of transitional elements. Static banner ads work by themselves, but an animated banner ad just might improve the click-through rates ever so slightly, just be sure not to distract the user from the message in your ad.


As with any advertisement, there should be a landing page created for that ad. The landing page should be specific to the ad, that is specific to the web page that is specific for the site’s core demographic. Even if the goal of the banner is to generate brand awareness, the banner will fail if the user is only directed to the homepage as there would be no real means to measure a simple conversion from then onwards. Always create a landing page, again, with a call to action.


The key to demonstrating results with banner ads is to know your audience and to know the publisher and the website where the banner will sit. Being strategic about the placement will mean that you will get more clicks, with those clicks being of a higher value. Before taking out a banner advert on a publisher’s website, understand the placement of the advert and find out about other ads running on those pages and spend time understanding the type of visitor that is likely to be visiting the website.

When working with banner ads, always keep in mind context. Specifically, the state of other broadcast and advertising mediums. Digiday notes that TV advertising generates a 0.5% response rate, which if we use the 0.6% CTR for banner ads noted earlier, banner ads are actually 0.1% more effective!

If the banner isn’t generating clicks, or if the traffic coming in from the ad has a high bounce rate or doesn’t convert, then you will know about it because banner ads are easy to measure. The stats are simple and easily accessible. If you decide to advertise with banners on a publisher’s website for an extended period of time, alternate the ad so that the design and message of the ads are different.

Whether it’s to offer discounted products, launch new products or build awareness around your organisation at an event, banner ads are worth consideration as a marketing tactic to support a campaign or plan. And if you are confident in your creative and graphical design ability, Google’s Web Designer tool allows you to create banner ads yourself.

So, do banner ads work in the science sectors? The answer is yes, providing that the approach to their creation and placements are strategic.