How to Increase Display Ad CTR + Examples [Based on Neuroscience]

Adam Hencz

February 2, 2024

Most display ads you see will probably do nothing for your life.

But a couple of ads may stick with you from the very first moment.

And that’s all it takes really. A moment.

Our focus here is not to dazzle you with jargon and worn-out tips about how to make your ads “pop” but rather to give you quick insights (based on neuroscience) that will set a clear path for your display advertising campaigns right away.


Let’s get to it then.

What are display ads?

Display ads are online ads that promote products or brands on channels like websites and social media.

Effective display advertising is designed to draw your attention and trigger specific actions like clicks to take you to product or landing pages.

Click-through rate (CTR) is one of the key metrics advertisers use to measure display ad effectiveness.

Effective display ads trigger actions like clicks that take visitors to product or landing pages

Why display ads fail

Here are the 3 most common reasons why your display ads might be falling short of your expectations.

Banner blindness

Online ads have become so ubiquitous that people are now ignoring them altogether. We've developed a type of selective online attention. We wilfully or often unconsciously ignore anything that looks like an ad.

This is banner blindness in a nutshell.

Factors contributing to banner blindness include ad clutter, ad saturation, and irrelevant content. It also stems from the negative experiences associated with intrusive ads and the stress they generate.

There are four simple steps you can take to tackle banner blindness & ignorance.

Information overload

​​Display advertising often fails due to information overload, which blurs the viewer’s focus. This isn't because our attention spans are shrinking, but rather because we're bombarded with more distractions.

Source: AdBlockGoo Study

Our brains are now constantly exposed to various attention-grabbing elements.

This leads to:

  • Increased distractibility
  • Shorter & narrower focus on single tasks
  • Slower learning and need for more repetition

In summary, the bombardment of information in our digital age not only challenges our ability to focus but also lowers the chances of display ads cutting through the noise.

One-size-fits-all approach

Imagine scrolling through your phone – you likely skip over text-heavy ads and cluttered visuals. But on the other hand, when you’re browsing on your laptop, you’re more likely to engage with these types of content.

What works on desktop may not click on mobile, and vice versa.

In short: do some research on how your audience consumes content. Then repurpose your ads to match it. Repurposing is inevitable.

We've written an entire ebook on how you can tackle these challenges and boost CTRs on your display ads. Get your copy here!

5 Ways To Increase Your Display Ad CTRs

1. Craft 1 clear message with 1 CTA

As we’ve covered above, what makes people drop off right away is information overload.

Our study with MMA showed that when we are scrolling through our feeds, our brain evaluates content and triggers a reaction in a fraction of a second.

To either engage with the content you see or scroll on right away.

Let’s look at these display ads for example:

The Detroit Pistons boosted fan engagement by 18% with slight display ad tweaks.

The campaign of the Detroit Pistons was falling short on CTR so they started improving their marketing materials with instant eye-tracking insights.

The one-click tests showed them that their original ad was overloading their audience’s mind (high Cognitive Demand), so they made changes to cut the copy and make the ad breathe a little.

In just a short period, the campaign got an 18% boost in fan engagement on Meta & X combined.

To sum it up: always talk to 1 specific person to solve 1 specific problem with every ad you create. And you’ll see performance improve instantly.

2. Choose the right display ad size

Your campaign goals should dictate the display ad formats you use, as they all have their unique strengths and weaknesses.

We ran a research study with a major ad and PR company using brain scanning (EEG), eye-tracking, and surveys to assess online ad placement and sizes.

We found that:

  • Large and medium ads capture the most attention
  • In-stream videos drive high levels of engagement
  • Sticky side banners lead to higher brand recall

But there is a flip side to all of these formats. You can learn about them in the State of Advertising Report or read the blog to see the winner between the two most common ad placements.

3. Use data in your creative workflows

Data & analytics tops the priority list of investment areas for future growth.

And marketing leaders are taking note of this trend.

In fact, according to a Gartner survey, about 76% of marketers base their creative choices on data analysis.

Source: Gartner

Data and creativity are a powerful mix. And the trick to higher display ad CTRs is to use data to inform the creative process. This dynamic combination helps brands make smarter decisions and create ads that really hit the mark.

4. A/B test & compare variations

Designing ads brings about numerous dilemmas about composition, coloring, contrasts, and density. Minor changes in your design can make a huge difference in ad performance.

So, what should you do?

You can tackle this by creating multiple versions of your creatives and running quick tests before launching your ads. 

In the below video, we'll show you how to A/B test your creatives at top speed. We'll compare 3 versions of an ad and choose the best performer:

5. Optimize for attention

The reign of attention is unrivaled. Attention connects brands with people. It creates business opportunities and generates demand.What makes attention the industry’s #1 metric is the fact that it’s a coherent and universal human behavior. Even cultural differences have close to no impact on it.

Find the top performer in seconds with Predict.

The challenge with attention is that it used to be demanding to measure and quantify it. Gathering data with eye-tracking studies is resource-heavy and comes with a hefty price tag. Then, on top of that, with every study you need to align on specific metrics to track which are also useful for the business.

The rise of AI models now makes it possible to offer eye-tracking solutions at scale and for a fraction of the cost and time. For example, with Predict you can instantly see how attention travels on your creatives. You can also find performance gaps and see if your creatives hit the mark. It also helps you build a common language around attention, and use metrics that you can incorporate into your KPIs.

FAQs about display ad CTRs

Let’s set any doubts at rest around display ad CTRs.

How is CTR calculated for display ads?

Click-through rate (CTR) is a metric used to measure the effectiveness of display advertising campaigns. It is calculated by dividing the number of clicks on an ad by the number of times the ad is shown (impressions).

The formula for CTR is: (clicks / impressions) x 100

For example, if an ad received 100 clicks and 1,000 impressions, the CTR would be 10%.

What is the average CTR for a display ad?

According to industry benchmarks, the average display ad CTR is hovering around 0.05%. However, the actual CTR can vary depending on factors such as the type, size, placement, and design of the ad, as well as the target audience and the industry.

What is a good CTR for banner ads?

A "good" CTR can vary depending on the industry and the specific ad format. In general, aim for higher CTR, as it indicates that users find the ad helpful and relevant.

For standard banner ads, a CTR of 0.05% is considered average, while dynamic and non-traditional ads can achieve higher CTRs, ranging from 0.5% to 1%.

Is a 2% click-through rate good?

A 2% click-through rate (CTR) for display ads can be considered good, as it is higher than the average CTR of 0.1%. Hats off, you’ve beaten most of your competitors!

Ready to improve CTR on your display ads?

Are you still struggling with low display ad CTRs? Watch how Tre Kronor Media agency is crafting display ads that drive clicks with Predict. It’s a strategy that’s earned them new clients and doubled their CTR impact.

See how Predict can help your team improve CTRs and create effective display ads at scale. Get your free session now!

How to Increase Display Ad CTR + Examples [Based on Neuroscience]

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