I’ve been collecting banner ads. It’s possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever collected, surpassing all the odd curatorial pursuits from my childhood: a four-leaf clover collection, an extensive rock collection, an unused pencil collection, a bookmark collection, an expired credit card collection (I know, I know, but I liked comparing the designs…). I’ll share more of my banner ad collection another time, but for now I want to share three specimens.

First, this one:


Then, this one (ghosting the rings and showing the price on top, automatically rotating through and upon mouse hover):


Finally, this one:


The first and third feel like two different companies (with the second an intermediary). One suggests high-end, white glove service with a quality guarantee you can trust. I’d expect smooth, velvety plush packaging.

The other could be a distributor of fake news…possibly a wholesaler with sketchy sources, or a market for cheap thrills. Sure, in the design there’s simplicity, and the rings, but…it’s flaccid. Does anyone actually read the text on there, or is it clutter at this stage of customer engagement? Overall, despite the specific details, I wouldn’t be surprised if those rings were delivered in some plastic baggies.

All three ads sell a product, but one does this obviously.

More on these banner ads in a bit. Let’s pause to take a look at the overall branding.

Brilliant Earth makes lovely, environmentally conscious jewelry. Its flower-like, gem-like logo is excellent—color and shape reflect the product and values.


And its site is bright, elegant, and uncluttered. It feels hopeful, open, honest, and fresh, like the promise that might come with an important type of ring. It feels dignified, mature, and optimistic, like the energy that might surround a gift celebrating a milestone life event.



Notice how the ring pokes out of the grid slightly, adding a bit of dynamism to the blockiness (not that the blockiness is heavy, given the light backgrounds)…




Again, muted, blurred backgrounds emphasize the sparkliness of the jewelry, and place the jewelry in context of the natural environment—key to their business value proposition. But I’m not sure a garden-like background is “natural” (too manicured); I’d like to see some other options with earthy materials. Maybe soil itself. I can imagine striking effects with cracked earth backgrounds, gleaming mud washes, or silty slurries. Robert Redford’s jewelry company, Sundance, often does a beautiful job staging their jewelry with natural elements, like rocks, sand, and leaves (particularly in their print catalogs).

Soil would be daring—what luxury jewelry company shows their precious stones with such a humble backdrop? But it could be perfectly unforgettable for Brilliant Earth.



Back to the banners…

My guess is that the types of people who click on those three banner ads are very different, like the people who buy Greenway’s pasta sauce rather than Brad’s Organic. Which ad is likeliest to attract those who would follow the Brilliant Earth brand, value the lifestyle modeled by its site, and make the purchase?

What’s more, “conflict-free” gemstones are a key differentiator for Brilliant Earth from other fine jewelry makers like Tiffany’s, but do any of these banner ads tap into that?

The second two ads are purely informational—they show the product and the price on a plain white background. But if an ad is designed just to inform, this is neglecting and diminishing the power of the brand.

The same loop of metal could be offered at the same price at a garage sale or at Costco or at a posh, quiet, boutique shop. In each place, the story the customer experiences, participates in, and remembers is entirely different.

A banner ad is a storefront. It attracts some people, and filters out everyone else. It does this by setting up expectations—in the narrowest of spaces.