I Spent Millions Using Microsoft Paint

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A lot of banners you see online look very attractive. Most of them are all polished up and pretty, smooth animation and crisp clean images.  But, guess what? A lot of these ads suck for direct response!

If you’re a brand you want the branding that comes with a great image so you pay your agency a pretty penny and out pops a nice creative. These creative are good for the brand and makes them sleep well at night, but for the consumer, most of them are ignored. Banner blindness is a documented phenomenon, so I want to give out a couple tricks to get around it.

Before I started WhatRunsWhere, I was a fairly successful affiliate, and made most of my money buying media. Here’s something not everyone knows though, I made most of my banners in paint. These were banners that I bought millions in media for, and they worked. Know why? Ugly works! period.

Ugly banners break the norm, as a consumer we’re so used to seeing pretty banners and as a result, banner blindness. An ugly banner sticks out, grabs attention and as a result drives a much better direct response click through rate (CTR) and as a result you’ll drive more traffic and increase sales!

I would literally go into paint, use the text tool as well as some I images sourced, and bam a banner would pop out. It’s crazy, because we tested these pretty banners as well, the ugly outperformed. I’m not saying that all your banners need to be ugly but it’s definitely worth testing.

One more very important tip is KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid! If your ad tries to do too much it will lose its appeal and the consumer glosses over it. Figure out the key point of what you want to say and say it in a qualifying way (so that the right people come to your offer), but in a simple way.

Hopefully these two tips gave you some things to think about and test. I hope your banners are ugly and your campaigns profitable.

About MaxTeitelbaum

Max is a Co-Founder and the COO at WhatRunsWhere . WhatRunsWhere provides online advertising intelligence allowing advertisers to leverage what their competition is doing to save time and money in their advertising. Passionate about online advertising and adtech.

27 thoughts on “I Spent Millions Using Microsoft Paint

  1. Bryn Youngblut

    It’s the truth! Also being Max’s old business partner I would see this and laugh because I use fireworks/photoshop but I still make ugly banners using those…some of the things that work in this industry still boggle my mind to this day…

    1. Clair

      Maybe, but it says a lot about your company having a nice polished ad instead of a hideous one that looks like a child drew it.

  2. Big Italy

    Shoe, could this also be taken as false advertising from people that bought banners from you? How much did you charge?

  3. Mark

    Honestly, I’m not shocked. People are so over-loaded on the web these days. They’re blind to everything.

  4. Zach Kasperski

    I have to say, if the display ads were as bad as the writing in this article, then maybe they are effective. I read this article’s entirety and it was some of the worst I’ve seen from Shoe. My question: how do you sell a client on ugly ads? That’s the bigger story here.

    One good thing this article has: a clever title.

  5. Jacko

    Practical advice

    Two words that describe this entire blog.

    Thanks for sharing common sense tips.

    I talk to clients about this all the time. They are obsessed with paying me hundreds and thousands over the smallest little tweaks to their banners and images.

    I try to tell them that it’s not that important but its kind of like talking to the mailbox.

  6. Gangam Style Dancer

    This post is great! I see these “UGLY” banners often, and see i actuall recall them so late after seeing them. I know specifically a few weight loss ones, and also that one with the old lady and skin peeling off. I could imaging the CTR on those are insane. One thing though you need to balance you Brand appeal to CTR rate..depends what your business is all about.

  7. Ron Swanson

    Love it, so true, couldn’t agree more. KISS is advertising 101 because it’s tried and true and works like a charm.

  8. sam the sock puppet

    I don’t know how true this is.

    I know that they say “plenty of fish” – has a terrible design (or did) and made more money because of it – the owner even kept the horrible design – to keep making money.

    So maybe bad ads work the same way — BUT — WHY?

    I think the answer is — because these bad designs have more WHITE SPACE. Not the fact that you’ve used pixels instead of vectors — or that a website looks good, or bad — but the more WHITE SPACE – the easier it is for a user to see – and more chance of catching the users eye.

    Try an ad with the full ad being a plain color – white – then just have a simple image or message in the middle – the surrounding boarder should make the ad get better ctr — as the ad no longer blends into the website, or the search listings.

  9. Chris

    Ironically when people ask what I use to make most of my banners and do most of my image editing they do not believe when when i tell them paint :) Don’t get me wrong, I do use photoshop when I need to do certain details or aspects, but I still use paint much much more :)

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