Banner ads are tried-and-true forms of advertising that can deliver great results while driving a return on investment. So why are advertisers so hesitant to use them?

Maybe it's because they have been overrun with cheesy, annoying, misleading, and downright dumb content, creating an aversion to this otherwise effective form of advertising.

We've all seen those silly flashing ads across the top of our favorite websites that promise a free iPod when you choose which brand of fast-food French fries you prefer. But who actually clicks on those things anymore? It's a shame that such an important online-advertising avenue has been tainted for so long with such content.

In their design and potential effectiveness, banner ads are very similar to outdoor billboard advertisements. They have to be quick, catchy, and well planned out to be effective.

Here are three rules for outdoor advertising that I learned in my college advertising class that can be easily translated into creating effective online campaigns as well.

Rule 1: Make your point in eight words or less

This is a very strict rule for outdoor ads. Vehicles pass by your advertisement at increasingly high speeds, so you need to get to the point, and fast.

This rule is also true for banner ads, as those navigating around Web pages do so at lightning speed. If you want to have any chance of communicating with viewers, you'll have to make it snappy.

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Kim Stearns is marketing director at Forty (, a branding, design, promotion, and social-media marketing agency based in Phoenix, AZ.