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Use a black-box retargeting partner, get a pixelated logo

March 16, 2017

A point-by-point walkthrough of what you get when you let a black-box performance ad net create your display ads.

Just saw this ad. It's a dynamic 970x250 display ad for a large US retailer, showing three bedding products. We won't say which one, but it's the product of one of those big black-box performance retargeters.

The next time you're looking at your monthly CTR, CTA, ROI, and so forth, just remember that, while week-over-week campaign performance might look great, your dynamic ads partner may be gleefully chipping away at decades of hard-won brand equity (and charging you for it...lovely!).

It's hard to believe this ad was ever approved by the advertiser's Brand Police (client-side marketers love to make fun of the Brand Police, but let's face it, they exist to prevent disasters like this from being barfed into the world).

Let's get to the snark...

Crap-tastic thing no. 1

What is going on with the layout? The product images don't completely fill the product tiles, which creates meaningless extra vertical lines that add noise to the design and layout. It's just lazy — the product images could be scaled up with a few lines of CSS so that they fill the available horizontal space. The result would be a much cleaner and less cluttered layout. Either that or a different template design could have been used.

Crap-tastic thing no. 2

Those star ratings. Where to begin? Message to designer: THEY DO NOT WORK AS AN IMAGE OVERLAY.

You can't really see them. There's no color contrast, so when you do finally find them, you can't actually read them. Especially that middle product — "Hey, I know how to highlight our product ratings! Let's throw some little red stars inside an image that's already filled with jagged little red shapes!"


Playing devil's advocate: maybe we're supposed to be viewing the ad in some specific wavelength of ultraviolet light. Maybe it was meant to be seen by bumblebees.

Hmm...nope. I think the bumblebees would still have trouble making sense of those product ratings.

Crap-tastic thing no. 3 (saved the worst for last)

Sit down for this one: the logo is pixelated and contains compression artifacts. Because...well, we don't know why. There is absolutely no reason any logo should ever be pixelated. This is Digital Marketing Rule Numero Uno: Thou shalt never, ever, ever save thy brand's logo as a low-quality JPEG!

This might seem nit-picky if you're not "in the biz," but to a professional marketer working at a large retailer this is a complete no-brainer and a rule that any intern knows.

Let's zoom in on that logo so you can see all those beautiful JPEG compression artifacts:


There are any number of ways those pixelated compression artifacts could have been avoided:

  • Save as higher-quality JPEG — The logo image is so small that even saving at 100 JPEG quality is going to have no material effect on the ad's total K-weight. There is precisely nothing to be gained by saving a small logo at low quality.
  • Save as GIF — The logo is just red on white, so a GIF wouldn't lose any fidelity, and would have zero compression artifacts.
  • Save as 24-bit (uncompressed) PNG — Again, because the logo is small, saving as an uncompressed PNG isn't going to have a huge impact on K-weight. And with PNG (unlike JPEG or GIF), you maintain 100% image fidelity.
  • Use an SVG — It's 2017 for Pete's sake. Use a vector logo and get: small file size, infinite fidelity at any scale, and perfect fidelity on retina screens.

Bonus crap-tastic thing

See above enlarged logo. Notice the compression in the "white space" around the logo? That grid-like pattern of light grey dots? That's some kind of (bad) image compression. Any idea why it's there? Well, neither do we.

OK, rant over. Feeling better.

That was cathartic.

The point is: you can run dynamic ads without your brand being dragged through the digital equivalent of a pile of soggy diapers. Have a look at our work, then contact us to get started on some seriously rad dynamic display ad creative.

Contact us to learn more about the Canned Banners Dynamic Ads platform.

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