by Dougal MacKenzie
, posted on 10 Feb '21

4 Ways You Can Get More Clicks From Your Display Adverts


Dougal MacKenzie, Senior Client Services Manager, supports our university clients with delivering and reporting their postgraduate advertising campaigns so has seen a fair few display adverts. Here he shares his insights and advice with you, to help you get the most out of your creatives.


Love or hate it, banner advertising is a key part of postgraduate student recruitment, whether it is on your own site, or third-party website or platform.

We all face the same challenge: what information and creative elements to include, within what can sometimes be small and tricky dimensions; to grab attention, convey a key message and generate engagement.

Before you start designing your creative, it is important to consider the following.

Your audience

Display advertising offers you the opportunity to target by age, geography, interests and more, so it is important your creative reflects this.

It can be tempting to use the same creative across all platforms but it should be specific to the target audience you are speaking to.

You will need to consider where they are in their journey, are they a new audience or are you retargeting them. What is their persona and what motivates them. For example, if they have never heard from you before, you don’t want to lead with your virtual study fair details, you will need to give more value-add reasons to find out more. Likewise ‘register now’ won’t work as a call-to-action (CTA) so use ‘find out more’ or ‘find out why’.

Platforms and placements

Your creatives will also need to differ by platform and placement, not only the dimensions but the messages and creative elements you include.

For example, on our FindAMasters and FindAPhD websites we use a Data Management Platform (DMP) to collate audience segments based on location and interest. These segments are used for our Audience Extension offer which we use for own campaigns, as well as universities. Whilst we are retargeting our website audience, they are off-site adverts and therefore we have learnt we need to make sure our logo is visible at all times, and that branding and messaging is clear so they recognise us.

If your display adverts are part of a wider campaign, try mapping out the platform and placements alongside the other touch points to see if there is any overlap and use it to determine the sequence of messages and CTA’s.

In the Client Services Department, we deal with hundreds of university creatives, from brand awareness campaigns, to course level promotion. Over the last few months, here is what we noticed generated the most clicks across our FindAMasters and FindAPhD websites.

#1 Short and sweet works a treat

It sounds simple, but even the best of us can get tunnel-vision when developing a campaign’s message, and we start wanting to cram in as much information as possible. In a digital age where information travels fast and is digested even faster, a clear concise message is more likely going to pique your audience’s interest than a longer detailed one. Save the nitty gritty for the landing page; put your best, most direct message first.

#2 Location location location

Our user-testing sessions have told us that descriptions of location are an important factor when browsing our sites, so consider implementing this into your banner design.

Are you nestled in between national forests, a coastal city by the sea, or simply proud of your own brilliant area? Include it! An image of your campus building is great, but when a browsing prospective student sees a dozen of them at a time, it can become lost in the crowd.

You can also reference in your creative copy, for example 'Study in the heart of the Peak District’ can help prospective students visualise where they will study and spark interest.

#3 Less is more

This runs parallel with #1. When designing your banner, consider the ‘less is more’ approach in terms of imagery and other elements. One thing we noticed amongst high-performing banners was they all shared a simple, efficient design. Whilst it’s tempting to include a stunning vista of your campus along with a few shots of student life, beset within multiple logos of awards, it begins to cloud over that key, central message you are trying to get across. Additionally, keeping your banner limited to 2-3 colours helps to avoid overcrowding your visual palette.

#4 Re-consider the call-to-action

Whilst everyone knows it is important to have a CTA, it can be easy for it to become lost in the design. It needs to stand out, so try think about where, and how you will present it. Consider off-set complimentary colours, where your eyes naturally fall on a banner, shapes or elements that work well together. Banners that didn’t perform well on our sites had CTAs that simply didn’t stand out.

It is important to remember that whilst clicks are an important metric, you shouldn’t underestimate the brand awareness and assisted conversion through the impressions served. Therefore make the CTA about the audience and not your goal, and value the fact that the right person has seen the message you wanted to tell them.


We hope these tips come in handy when you are planning your next campaign. As part of our advertising service, our Client Services Department can design your display adverts and proof them with you before launching them live on our sites. If you are interested in finding out about our advertising opportunities, or have any questions, please get in touch with your Account Manager or email [email protected] or call +44(0) 114 268 4940.


FindAUniversity take pride in being experts in postgraduate education. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for regular insight, comment and case studies.



You may also like...


7 Email Marketing Tips

Our Head of Client Services Department, Reenie Hollis, shares her top email marketing tips for success.


7 Tips for Creating an Award-winning Subject Level Marketing Campaign

University of Aberdeen recently won a Heist Award for their postgraduate campaign and Fiona Jardine shares her advice with you.