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Display Advertising 101

Digital advertising spending, which includes desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, is the fastest-growing segment in advertising. Accounting for a total of 53% of all ad spending in 2020, a record $336 billion will be spent on digital ads alone. This is why it is critical to know and understand the fundamentals of using display advertising to help your business be seen online.

What is Display Advertising?

Display advertising is a practical and leading form of digital advertising in today’s world. Display ads provide a cost effective way for advertisers to reach and acquire new customers online with text, image and video formats. Using these visually pleasing media types helps advertisers affordably attract attention and increase brand awareness online.

The most common use of display advertising is in the form of a banner ad typically located in designated positions or areas on webpages and social media platforms. 

A successful display campaign may use a variety of ads, formats and channels to appeal to the target audience. Skilled marketers even test different designs. Trying a different color, font, text, message, offer, creative size or position can provide insight and ultimately result in higher engagement or brand lift.

Types of Display Ads

Developing a campaign that effectively engages your target audience requires basic knowledge of the various ad types at your disposal. Here are some options you should test out when determining what may work best for your next ad campaign.

Banner Ads - The most common display ad type. These ads are simply an image based ad that links to a desired landing page. Typically placed in a designated position, sometimes at the very top of a webpage to draw immediate attention from visitors. 

banner ad examples

Rich Media Ads - These ads typically include video, audio and other interactive elements to involve the audience in a high quality experience and ultimately encourage engagement. Here is a great blog article with some examples of rich media ads in action. 

Interstitial Ads - These ads can be text, image or video based and take up the entire screen. Most commonly used in mobile applications to increase impression rates and ultimately conversions. If you’re going to use interstitial ads be sure to follow best practices to prevent poor user experience. 

Video Ads - Using video ads on channels such as Youtube, Facebook and Instagram you can reach and engage your audience in a more intimate and meaningful way. On Youtube potential customers will see your video ad before, during or after watching their desired video content. After watching a video, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online. 

An important part of what makes various display advertising formats so effective is using sophisticated targeting capabilities to reach the desired audience. 

Using Targeting with Display Advertising

Targeting, one of the key factors to generating results with a display advertising campaign, includes proper selection of your audience and the tactics employed to reach them. When used appropriately, targeting provides the means to deliver your message to the right audience thereby preventing wasted advertising dollars on people less likely to become a loyal customer.

There are so many options available for display ad targeting, it can be mind boggling. Here are three very important details an advertiser should know about their audience to help them establish a well-rounded targeting strategy.

  1. Geographic location (city, state, zip, DMA, etc.)
  2. Demographic (age, gender, household income, etc.)
  3. Interests (skiing, travel, technology, investing, fine dining, etc.)

With this information various tactics can be used to reach new customers. Some popular targeting strategies include:

  • Geographic Targeting - targets users based on their physical location using a radius, zip, county, DMA, state etc.
  • Demographic Targeting - targets users based on their age, gender, household income (HHI), career, ethnicity, etc.
  • Behavioral Targeting - targets consumers based on their historical search, click and online browsing behaviors.
  • Content Targeting - targets consumers based on the sites they visit and the type of content they consume online.
  • Frequency Targeting and Day Parting - Limits the number of times an ad is delivered to a user and designates ad delivery to the time of day when consumers are most likely to buy.
    same targeting tactics in image format
  • Geofencing - a virtual perimeter encompassing a real-world geographic area, such as a radius or a custom drawn fence. Targets and reports on users who enter the location with a mobile device. Measuring foot traffic and ROI.
  • Search Retargeting - target users based on historically searched keywords.
  • Site Retargeting - targets users who have visited the advertisers website to build promote awareness, interest, and nurture a visitor towards a conversion.
  • Cross-Device Targeting - targets users across various owned devices.

Don't let this overwhelm you. If you need help reach out to an advertising agency and share your challenges. You may find they can provide you with a marketing consult in addition to services.

Display Advertising Creative Tips

When using display advertising you want to make sure that your message/visuals resonate to draw attention and engagement from users as they consume their favorite websites and social platforms. Here are some tips to help you as you design your display ad campaign.

Work backwards from your goal. What do you want in return for your ad spend? What are going to do once a user has reached the end of their ad journey? What value will you deliver to earn more business? 

Craft your ad message to align with your goal. If you're trying to get more people to take advantage of a limited time offer with a discount - be sure to mention that in the ad. If it’s branding make sure to include a testimonial or the slogan - tell people why they should care. This may seem like a no brainer but it's absolutely the difference between getting your desired results and wasting your time.

Design the creative to resonate with your audience. Make sure the audience you're targeting is considered when writing your copy/script and designing your ads. The language, color scheme and design you use will have a massive psychological impact on your audience - as long as you’ve considered them throughout the creative process.

Less is more. Be ruthlessly minimalist in your approach. Say only what must be said and use only those elements that enrich your message and ultimately increase your brand resonance. Don’t be afraid to leave your audience wanting more. Curiosity will invariably lead to more engagement with your ad, landing page and/or searches for your brand.

Always have a strong call to action. Tell the user what you want them to do by when (today, now, etc.) and give them a little insight into where you’ll take them when they choose to engage (click). Book Now. Get Started. Sign Up Today. Learn More.

Make sure your landing page follows suit. It should be well designed, in alignment with your creative message, relevant to your audience and support your goal. 

Measuring Results of Your Display Advertising Campaigns

The best thing about display advertising is the ability to measure the performance of your marketing activities and improve your strategy to get better results. Here are some popular ad tracking techniques that will allow you to collect data (metrics) and consumer insights to gauge the effectiveness of your display ad campaign:  

Tracking URLs - Prior to launching your campaign you can create a UTM (Urchin Tracking Module). This adds a tracking token to the end of your landing page url. Using this new url in conjunction with an ad tracking tool (i.e. Google Analytics) will allow you to see how much site traffic is coming from your ad campaign as a referral traffic source.

Tracking Pixels - When you partner with an advertising agency to run display ads they typically will issue a tracking pixel for you to place on the landing page. When your landing page loads, the tracking pixel “fires”, sending information to your ad tracking tool and/or the agency's reporting system. This typically records how many users clicked vs. viewed which can tell you how effective your ad campaign is at engaging your audience. Some pixels even track a users engagement with specific landing page elements. These conversions are a great way to help you determine if your campaign was a success and is providing a return on investment (ROI). 

These tools are great for helping you decode the buyer's journey and ultimately design a valuable advertising experience that brings new customers to you. Implementing the right tracking tools and techniques can be challenging at first but very rewarding once you get it right.  

Your display advertising campaign will produce a ton of metrics for you to review. Some of the most common are impressions, reach, cost, engagement rate, clicks, CTR, CPC, visits, page views, bounce rate, engaged visit rate, conversion, and conversion rate. This data is available from either your ad agency or can be determined using your ad tracking tool.

It’s important to spend some time thinking about one or two specific metrics, also known as KPIs, that will equal success for your ad campaign. When reviewing your campaign report be sure to focus on these key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the effectiveness of your efforts and make tweaks if necessary. 

In Conclusion

Display ads should be utilized as part of any online marketing plan to allow you to affordably and efficiently reach a digitally engaged, robust audience. Remember display ads provide the following benefits to digital advertisers:

  • Affordable, visually appealing and customizable
  • Increase awareness and brand recognition
  • Targeting tactics allow you to reach the right people
  • Retargeting nurtures visitors towards conversion
  • Provides valuable campaign data and consumer insights 

We hope understanding these foundational elements and what to expect  helps you start your very own display advertising campaign.

Wanna learn even more about digital marketing? Check out our Survival Guide to Digital Marketing to successfully navigate the uncharted digital frontier with helpful tips for success.

Download the Guide

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