The Ultimate 2021 B2B Email Ad Banner Playbook

January 7, 2021

As you settle into the New Year, it’s good to reflect on the year prior. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that 2020 has been a transformational year for all organizations. This pandemic accelerated digital transformation, forcing businesses to find opportunities to stand out amid all the competition online.

This year, marketers are looking to be more proactive in their planning, creative in their campaigns, and agile in their execution. That’s why picking the right marketing channels for your business is critical.

Think about it - where are your target customers spending most of their time? Like 2020, we’ll bet that they’re in their homes and communicating through email. So, if you’ve got an email and a team that sends emails, it's time you extract the most value from this channel...

1. What the heck is an email ad banner, and why should you care? 

Email ad banners are like display ads, but for your email. It's like email marketing meets display advertising but with a human touch. Email banners function as an email signature counterpart to display ad banners. They’re found beneath or alongside the email signature text block. The best part of this channel is you don’t have to pay for banner real estate on the emails your organization is already sending. Check the example below.

What makes email ad banners better than your traditional display or retargeted ads is that they are fuelled by relationships (rather than the ad network). The larger your team, the more momentous the channel. For example, if you have a team of 100, we’re talking roughly 1,000,000+ campaign impressions (check out this email banner ad ROI blog to see the math breakdown). 

That’s why some of the smartest marketing teams we work with at leading companies like Salesforce, Adobe, and Outreach are already using everyday email to get their campaigns in the inboxes of their target audience. 

2. Get inspired by our email banner ad holiday plays. 

Check out the click-worthy holiday email banner ads we‘ve scheduled to deploy across our organization. 

January 1st: New Years Day

Kick off the new year with an animated toast to your team, customers, partners and prospects! Make your first few emails of the year count.

Imagine that baby at the bottom of your Monday morning emails. 

January 18th: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

This U.S. holiday, is celebrated near Dr. King’s birthday (Jan. 15), on the third Monday of January.  We’ll be celebrating his legacy in every send. 

Pro tip:  If you have got a blog around this holiday, be sure to link it. If not, link the banner to relevant content that inspires.

February 12th: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the biggest celebration of the year in China and other East Asian countries. This year, we’re celebrating the year of the Ox. 

Here’s how we’re doing it!

February 14th: Valentines Day

Remember all of the fun Mickey Mouse cards, candy and roses you’d get on Valentines day during grade school? Well, this is the email version of that day. Be sure to have fun with it. Keep it short and sweet.

Pro Tip: Schedule your ad banners to deploy so you don't have to manually start or end the ad.

March 8th: International Women’s Day

From supporting female-based organizations to engaging customers via email, there’s many ways Brands can celebrate and honor the achievements of women around the world. 

Here’s how we’ll be doing it. 

Pro Tip: Adding subtle animations can elevate your banner ad design without taking away from the copy.

March 17th: Saint Patrick’s Day

Trying to come up with a fun way to celebrate this green holiday? Try your luck with an email ad banner this year. Here’s what we’ve come up with. 

Pro Tip: A bold CTA with clear instructions is the best way to improve banner CTR.

May 31st: Memorial Day

If you’re not sure what to say for this honorable holiday, just share a salute and celebrate the brave heroes who have fought for our freedoms. Focus on paying your respects or bringing awareness to non-profits initiatives that support this holiday.

June 1st-30th: Pride Month

Pride Month is a time when people unite to celebrate and show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s how we’ll be  incorporating this powerful message using our banners during Pride month.


Pro Tip:If you’ve got some major campaigns in June, schedule your Pride ad banners to rotate across your team email alongside those banner ads. Rotating signature banners keep the interest level high for recipients. 

June 19th: Juneteenth

Commonly known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is a celebration of black independence. It’s a day that signifies the end of slavery and the celebration of freedom for everyone in the United States. 

While there’s no pre-existing playbook for what kind of messaging will truly resonates with audiences, here’s a blog that shares some insight into how other brands are showing support. As for us, we’ll be using our emails to spread awareness of this monumental day and show support to the black community. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to use hints of red, green, & black when creating Juneteenth graphics. 

July 4th: Independence Day

While Independence Day generally involves backyard barbecues, fireworks, and outdoor gatherings, the last couple of years, things will be a little different. So, why not celebrate every send with some email fireworks. 

Pro Tip: If and when you can safely plan a BBQ or an internal company event, you can enable your signature banners to only deploy internally. This will get your staff signing up in no time.

October 20th: International Pronoun Day

You cannot build awareness without educating first. Gender diversity is an issue that requires people to look outside the norm, keep assumptions at bay, and relearn how they address one another. If Brands can be a part of the solution in helping to build awareness about the importance of gender diversity, it's a win.

Pro Tip: If you are using a tool like Opensense, you can include an optional signature field that allows your team to list their pronouns. 

October 31st: Halloween

What better way to say trick or treat than through your emails. This one’s got no tricks. Only treats.

Check it out if you dare! 😈 

November 11th: Veterans Day

Veterans Day is all about commemorating our active duty troops along with American veterans. Here’s the signature banner we'll be wearing in honor of these heroes. 

November 25th: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving email banner ads are an excellent way to share some thanks and gratitude through the emails your team is sending to their customers and partners before the holiday.

December 10-18 - Hannukah

Here’s a fun way you can say “Chag Sameach!” to your Jewish peers during Hanukkah. 

Pro Tip: Try to incorporate objects that represent this holiday like gold coins, candles, or dreidels. Opt for traditional blue and silver color. If you plan to incorporate some lights, be sure to use candles or lamps instead of Christmas lights.

December 25th: Christmas

There’s no better way to engage your audience than to spread some inbox joy right before they take off for the holidays. Here’s the banner we plan to don. 


Need more holiday inspo?  Check out our blog with some more festive examples from 2020.

3. Email Ad Banner Best Practices

What are the design elements of an email ad banner?

We hope you enjoyed the banners. If you want to get started on building your own, you have come to the right place.

Below, we’ve included some of the rules we follow when designing our ad banners.

  1. Treat your email signature like an extension of your brand. Use custom fonts and your brand color palette in every email.
  2. Animate your design. Use gifs, animations, or motion graphics to capture attention.
  3. Don't feel obliged to sell or market your product.  Not every email ad banner needs a campaign behind it. 
  4. Keep your design elements simple. If your recipient cannot immediately understand your ad, they’re not going to click through, let alone remember the offer.
  5. Use appropriate judgment with certain holiday banners. If you’re making Valentine’s Day banner, have fun with it! Incorporate roses and hearts into your branded banner. If you are making a banner in celebration of a holiday like Juneteenth, honor the traditional holiday colors.
  6.  A/B test email banners and banner copy, just like other ads. Always make room to test specific banner designs and campaigns out. Not to toot our own horn, but a tool like Opensense allows you to get full insights on your banner ad performance 📯📯📯
  7. Display a bold CTA that jumps off the page. Based on our experience, and our customers, a bold CTA always helps improve banner engagement. Be sure to change the copy up. For example, “Get Your Gift” outperforms “Click Here.”
  8. Keep it relevant and targeted - if you can, be sure to target your email ad banner based on audience, industry, or stage in the buying cycle. 

4. Our handpicked tools for designing and deploying your email ad banners

There are numerous free and paid tools available to enable marketers who have basic design skills to build and animate beautiful email banner ads.

Here’s a few of our favorite tools. 

Designing & Editing:

  • Canva - a drag and drop builder for creating branded graphics and animated elements to enhance your ad.
  • Bannersnack- for creating static visuals or animated HTML5 banner ads.
  • Adobe Spark - a quick and easy way to create the perfect banner for any occasion. They also have a ton of pre-made, professionally-designed templates for you to choose from.
  • Crello - Similar to Canva, here’s a tool that offers an easy way to tap into templates to build stunning and customizable visuals, gifs and more. 

Free High Resolution Photography:

  • Unsplash - for free beautiful high resolution stock images.
  • Pixabay- select from millions of high quality stock images, videos and music shared 
  • Pexels - Choose from a selection of original free stock photos & videos shared by talented creators.

Deploying Email Ad Banners:

What's the best way to deploy some serious banner game? Why, Opensense of course! 😏  With our tool, you can centrally manage your teams email signatures and email ad banners across your organization. Because Opensense works at the server level, there will be absolutely no issues in handling animations, gifs or motion graphics.

  • Schedule your holiday banners with a start and end date.
  • Consistent email ad banners across the whole team ( on every device).
  • Target email ad banners by sender or recipient.
  • Set up different groups and departments to display different banners.
  • Instant integrations with leading Marketing Automation tools.

Next Steps 

Well, there you have it. We hope you learned something new and got inspired to do something different this year to stand apart from your competition. By combining the power of everyday email with the pre-qualified audience that receives those emails, you have a monumental marketing opportunity for the taking. 

To test it out yourself, just build out an email ad banner using the instructions provided above. Add it to your signature. 

When you want an "easy" button for deploying your designs to the whole team, give us a shout! 

Happy Emailing 💌

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Jass Binning
Director of Marketing
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