Ad Quality Standards

High quality ads are not just encouraged, but required. They’re better for you, and for our users.

Guidelines

We can design these ads for you, but if you decide to make your own, there are a few guidelines that must be followed:

File Formats

The formats we accept are JPG, PNG, and GIF.

JPG files are best for banners with photos or gradients. PNG files are best for logos and designs that have a lot of solid colors. GIF files are used for storing multiple banners.

Image Size

Images must be under 50kb in size.

We recommend that you keep the file size as low as you can without losing detail, especially with leaderboard ads. Since they are at the very top of the page, load times could be the difference between whether it is seen or not on slow connections.

Banner dimensions

Submitted ads must be twice the size of the spot they will fill. So that means:

  • Rectangle banners should be 672px × 560px.
  • Leaderboard banners should be 1456px × 180px.

Banner text size

The minimum accepted text size for banner ads is 16px. Be careful though, there are some gotchas to look out for:

  • When creating the banner at twice the size as specified above, that 16px will need to be doubled to 36px.
  • Programs like Photoshop work in points and not pixels. Set the display resolution of your document to 72dpi (or pixels per inch) to match points to pixels. Then 36pt will equal 36px.

Because leaderboard ads are considerably smaller on mobile screens, we recommend you go well above this minimum for that type of ad.

Text must be accessible

Text should be readable without eyestrain. Making your text accessible to those with visual impairments makes it extra clear for everyone else.

We'll handle this on a case-by-case basis, but for help with keeping the text in your banner accessible, here are some resources:

  • Color Contrast Checker: A tool that lets you input your background color, and text color, to see how accessible it is. The more pass grades the better.
  • Text Over Images: This article that may give you some ideas on how to make text over images more accessible in your ads.

Images must have a clearly defined border

The border can be 1px wide as long as it's clear enough to separate it from our website background.

We'll add that a background color that's different enough from our site's background will be accepted as a clearly defined border. This will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

No Animation

In order to set ourselves apart from the rest of the Internet, we've decided not to allow any animation in our advertisements. We don't use animation on any part of the site, so your ad will be on equal footing. It's up to your skills as a designer to grab the user's attention.

Animated gifs serve a different purpose on our website: they allow advertisers to rotate through multiple banners.

Recommendations

The following are not enforced, but are encouraged for the highest quality ads.

  • Keep it simple. Your banner shouldn't double as a business card; that format may work in print but not online.
  • Include one call to action. For example, "Shop with us today", "See our catalogue," or "Save 50%"
  • Include ONE call to action. More than one is less focused and less effective.
  • Include your logo. Otherwise you're missing out on building brand awareness.
  • Change it up. Using the same banner for long periods of time can make it stale.
  • Avoid looking spammy. You'll have to play this by ear, but you've probably seen thousands of spammy ads by now. Just don't do that.
  • Use good design sense. This is subjective and improves with experience. There's a wealth of tips online for this kind of thing.

Example of a good ad

Here's an example ad for the Frontenac News that follows these recommendations:

Example Photo Ad

Images are a good way to draw attention, and with the right image we direct the user's focus to the text; the man is looking down at the paper and we naturally follow his gaze to the brightest part of the image, which is exactly where we place our logo and our one clear call to action: "Read Online".

Some simple copy text like, "Your local independent newspaper" would have also been okay, but in this case it worked better without.

Example of a bad ad

For this example, we won't break any of the requirements outlined in the guidelines section. It just breaks all of the suggestions outline above.

Example Photo Ad

Have you ever seen the ads exclaiming, "DOCTORS HATE HIM" or "LOCAL SINGLES IN YOUR AREA"? If not, this ad might jog your memory.

By using all caps and bright red, underlined font, this ad may scream "LOOK AT ME" but it also screams something else: "I AM A SCAM." People have trained themselves to ignore ads like these over time, a phenomenon called "banner blindness". Here's an example of it in action.

There are all sort of problems with this ad:

  • Since the ad excludes our logo, we're not building brand awareness.
  • The info dump isn't useful to readers in the way that it is in a paper ad; people don't go back and look at online banners ads for reference, because online ads rotate unpredictably.
  • The background behind the text is busy and makes it more difficult to read.
  • The image draws your eye toward the lower left, and then follows the reader's gaze to the lower right-hand side of the banner away from the main focus.

And the biggest problem is: there is no clear call to action.

If a user notices our ad, and decides to read it in its entirety, what are they supposed to do now? Immediately call us? Drive over? It's likely that they aren't going to need our services right this instant, and unless we give them a suggestion about what to do next they're just going to move on and forget.

User attention is valuable, so when you get it, don't waste it. If you want them to have all of your contact info on hand, make the call to action "Follow us on Facebook >" or "Bookmark our Website >". Have courage in your minimalism.


More Reading