Dr. Banner – The Banner Doctor: Zorphbert and Fred

Patient name: Zorphbert and Fred
Age: Two years old
Patient Origins: Zorphbert and Fred is a webcomic about two aliens who come to Earth disguised as dogs to study human life.
Patient History: Newly married, site has gone a dramatic “toning down” regimen.
Banners presented for initial review:

Zorphbert and Fred 468x60 Banner

A recent 468x60 banner from Zorphbert and Fred

Zorphbert and Fred 160x600 Skyscraper

A recent 160x600 banner from Zorphbert and Fred

Doctors notes:
Zorphbert and Fred’s banners feature both characters in space with the title. Dark background with a simple question. Direct and to the point – prior to some recent website changes, this was in direct contrast to the website. I’m interested to see if Dawn notices a difference in page views as a result.

Initial diagnosis:
These banners are nicely laid out (and they should be Dawn’s a designer!) – they offer a call to action (subtle), the characters and title – not cluttered and descriptive text. At first glance you may think that these banners are “clear, concise and engaging”, so what could possibly be wrong with them? An obvious answer might be that if I don’t click on the banner and go directly to the site – am I going to remember the title? Zorphbert is hard to spell, let alone recall. And what is the website? Was it ZorphbertandFred.com. Was it ZorfbertandFred? You get the idea and we’ll get to that… What I really want to focus on the descriptive copy. What are your expectations when you read “A Sci-Fi Humor Webcomic That Asks… Who Are The Real Aliens?” In my opinion, the second part (the question aspect) is something that is intriguing and is a very good way to engage the viewer. The problem is the setup.

Recommended treatment:
I like the design so I wouldn’t mess with that much – other than to add the web address. You could argue either way about whether it helps to have your address in there or whether you’re just taking up valuable real estate – that’s an easy thing to debate. That being said, I’d like to make one particular point that in this case. No matter how you mix up the order of ‘Zorphbert and Fred’, ‘Fred and Zorphbert’ or even if you factor in the spelling of Zorphbert – the thing to notice here is that all of that has NOTHING to do with the web address. The comic is actually located at ZFComics.com. While that’s a lot easier on the spelling part of your brain than Zorphbert, it leaves the possibility for a disconnect between the comic title and the web address. I’m not picking on the title ‘Zorphbert and Fred’, because I happen to think it’s great for a comic – it’s just bad for a website. Of course, that’s my opinion, which everyone is entitled to. As a bonus, I’ve basically done a cross-over article where I’m giving branding tips in my Dr. Banner article!


Getting back to adding the web address. I think it’s equally important to FEATURE the web address as it is the title. I’ve mentioned ‘Zorphbert and Fred’ enough times so far that you’d likely recall the title to look it up in a Google search. But what about a year from now?

So far we’ve addressed the superficial diagnosis – now it’s on to what could really be affecting these banners. Remember “A Sci-Fi Humor Webcomic That Asks…”? What do you expect. Just read those words:

“A Sci-Fi Humor Webcomic That Asks…”

Remember, we need to understand what the viewer is expecting when they click on that banner. If you say it’s a Sci-Fi Humor Webcomic – I’m going to expect some funny Sci-Fi stuff!

This next part is up for debate – and I’m open to your interpretation – I think an open discussion would really help Dawn so feel free to comment below. Therefore, this “Webcomic article asks… Should we really consider this a ‘Sci-Fi’ webcomic”?

In my humble opinion – no.

The reason I say that is because it doesn’t have a Sci-Fi feel to it. It takes place primarily on Earth and we’re really learning about aliens living in a foreign place and having to get along. Dawn’s drawing style is organic and inherently Earthy and I like that – and I think that’s an appealing aspect of the comic. Therefore, it’s not very “sci-fi”.

Finally, I’d like to take one more swipe at a font. Impact is a very strong font – but not creative. Steer clear of Impact. Get it? Steer clear of Impact? Folks, you’re getting this stuff for FREE!! HA!

Follow up:
Although it’s probably not too fair to assess anything after what you’ve read here, I’ve actually put together a sampling of banners based on my critique. Did I stay true to my word? Does a simple text change work? Does adding the web address make a huge difference? Does adding them affect the engagement of the banner or clutter them up?

Zorphbert and Fred doctored banner 468x60

A doctored version of the 468x60

Zorphbert and Fred doctored banner 160x600

Zorphbert and Fred doctored 160x600 Skyscraper

Dawn has an excellent design working for her – a few tweaks may make her campaigns go from good to gangbusters! I’d like to disclaim that there is no silver bullet for the perfect banner, and this is a great example of how testing EVERYTHING in your banners will give you better results and help any campaign get healthy in a heartbeat. See? I did it again, healthy in a heartbeat? Calling the Doctor!! Good night everybody!

I’ll be taking volunteers to help improve their ads and we’ll ask readers for their feedback. If you’d like to volunteer your comic’s banners, send an email to rtswebmail [at] gmail [dot] com – make sure you put ‘Dr. Banner – the Banner Doctor’ as the subject. Not all banners will be reviewed, but I will try to get to everyone.

Ken Drab sporting the thin faced lookKen Drab (me) has a small brain but a savant-like interest in branding, marketing and design. He better, that’s what he gets paid to do in real life. In make believe – he’s a webcomicker.

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  1. Thanks Ken! Actually, although I was terrified of just how bad this critique might be (*recalls being in art school and having a professor literally rip up your work in front of the class*), this makes perfect sense. If your suggestions weren’t already issues I had thought about changing, they were refreshing ideas.

    I could sit here and list excuses for why I did everything the way I did in the first place, but.. yknow… none of it holds much water. Impact is boring. I was looking for boring, as the other fonts were so playful. But it’s not a special sentimental font to me, I could use something else. I agree the sci-fi element to the strip is so much smaller than the other qualities (pets, dogs, social commentary, suburbia, etc). Makes sense to direct it towards those audiences and not one that may be hoping for star-trek-with-dogs. AND I know Zorphbert is hard to spell. And say. Absolutely no problem with adding the URL on there to give people something easier to remember. Makes sense. Like I said.

    Thanks for this! I feel inspired to work on a new promo banner campaign. Can’t wait for you to tear THAT up, too! (LOL, jk, I hope..)

  2. Pingback: Webcomic Alliance - Comic Brand-Aid: The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred

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