9 CTA buttons for display ads proven to work


Posted by AdEx Network on June 26th, 2020


The call to action(CTA) is one of the most important elements of every successful actionable advertisement, yet it is often overlooked, even by experienced marketers.

No matter how good your metaphor is or how strong your brand premise or USP are, the ultimate goal of every ad is to provoke a reaction in viewers: trigger their curiosity, activate desire, inspire action — and this is what the CTA has to do. But many of us often rushing between tasks find it easier to put something familiar that doesn’t require too much thinking: “Just put “Learn More” and we’re ready.”

The truth is that one should always pay attention when picking words for call to action messages — especially when it comes to display advertising banners. 

CTA for display ads

The “Call to action” in display advertising usually comes in the form of a button. Most of the time the CTA button is on the bottom of the web banner, after the brand logo, the product shot and the headline of the ad. 

But web banner ads are almost never created with the sole purpose to just raise awareness of a product, they usually have to drive traffic to a certain location — a brand’s website, landing page, the App Store. This makes picking the right CTA button even more important. 

The human brain

The brain is a peculiar machine that has the ability to self-train its reactions to different stimuli and automate responses. You don’t see green light and think about it before crossing — your brain just moves your body when it processes the familiar green light stimuli and stops when it processes red. This automation is valid for most repetitive signals we are exposed to and ads are among them. 

So we decided to pick few of the best working call to action messages used in web banner ads and analyze what reactions they provoke and how they can be used to optimize your display ad campaigns. 

We grouped the different call to action messages in three categories, determined by the desired actions they have to provoke in viewers:

  • Get the product
  • Act to obtain more information
  • Do a satisfying action

When choosing what type of call to action button you want for your ad, just ask yourself which one of these actions do you want to provoke.

Get the product

Getting the product is usually associated with buying a product, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes getting the product might mean singing up for a service or getting a quote. However, you should pick a “Get the product” phrase when your goal or your conversion is associated with signing up or buying a good or service.

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  1. Get Started — This call to action phrase is suitable for SAAS products, free trials or products that have quick onboarding. In the example above, the product is a forex exchange, so the conversion is not buying anything, but signing up for the service. Furthermore it implies that you are getting started with investing, so “Get Started” is following naturally the rest of the ad.

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2. Buy/Shop Now — “Buy now” is a very aggressive call to action, usually used by e-commerce, retail, technology and hardware advertisers. It is especially good when used for retargeting. When the viewer is already in the consideration phase of the consumer journey, this call to action does affirm the choice that he is already pondering: “Yes, do it now. Buy this now.”

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  1. Get free … . Who doesn’t want free stuff??? “Get free” is powerful phrase when used wisely — our advice is to use it when you are really giving something for free and it’s not just a gimmick. After all you used a strong trigger — if you don’t eventually hold up to your promise, you’ll make the people who clicked angry and this might harm your reputation.

Act to obtain more information

Sometimes you can’t directly sell a product through a banner ad. It can be a service or something for which the buyer needs longer consideration or onboarding period and more information. You can’t convince people using ads only, so you want to drive them to your website or landing page. In this case you better choose CTA texts that prompt viewers to ask for more information. 

But remember: You have to spark interest with the rest of the ad in order to have this button work. Suggest what your product can do, tease about your promotion, and let people “learn more”.

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  1. Join— this is a call to action that prompts viewers to sign up for a service or a website. You won’t just join eToro if you click on the banner, but you’ll surely land on a page that will give you all the information needed to convince you. You can use “Join” in another clever way too. If you manage to show the viewers something or someone they want to associate with, the word “Join” is even more powerful, because subconsciously they are joining the person they see on the ad, or are joining the club that will make what they see on the ad reality.

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2. Learn More — this is the most classical call to action in this group. In the example, Coursera teased the viewers that they can earn degrees from top universities, but didn’t tell which ones. You want to know? Just learn more by clicking.

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3. Subscribe — this call to action is used for information services usually — newsletters, news sites, podcasts. It implies that you are joining something that will bring you value continuously.

Do a satisfying action

Telling someone to buy something can be a good trigger, but it can also backfire — no one likes to part with their money, so not everyone will react positively to “Buy now”. However, telling the brain to do something it likes or something it wants will instantly trigger a positive emotion while sparing the details that you are actually selling something.

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  1. Watch Now —Take this brilliant example by Netflix. The CTA could have been “Subscribe” or “Join”, but it is far better. The ad focuses on a TV show that is interesting to the target audience and all it calls viewers for is to watch it now. The ad spares the fact that first you have to pay for a subscription, by triggering the instant gratification reflex in your brain.  

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2. Play Now — this call to action works in a similar way. It encourages the viewer to do something that is fun — it activates the endorphin secretion in your brain. If you are a gamer, reacting to a “Play now” call to action will be much easier and automated than anything else.

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3. Other “action” words — the good thing about this type of call to action words is that you can think out of the box and tailor your messaging even further to your product or your audience. Battle of Tanks marketers could have used “Play now” but what would make the banner stand out of its competition? Instead, using “Battle now” triggers an inner desire for aggression and competition — something the game relies on and is typical for its audience. 

Do you often create banner ads?

If so, we hope that this article will help you structure your process and improve your banners’ performance. However, if you have no experience creating display ads, you might want to check our long article that is full of priceless insights on design, copywriting and brainstorming for banner ads. 

Are you ready to start a banner ad campaign? Register in under 5 minutes on AdEx Network and start today.