Display advertising often gets a bad rap. And it makes sense: many display ads have been deployed to the masses only to miss their targets and be ignored by an ever-evolving customer. Although today we are armed with technology that allows for hyper-targeting, the truth is that display ads cannot be counted on to directly deliver ROI. So we ask ourselves, are online display ads worth it? We say, yes.

Let’s take a glimpse at display’s past and present, and how you can get the most out of your next campaign!

Online advertising is born

On October 27, 1994 the web gave birth to its first display banner ad—purchased by AT&T on HotWired.com—an event that would forever disrupt an industry. Unlike their traditional counterparts, web banner ads offered unique transparency. For the first time ever advertisers could actually see the number of people that viewed and interacted with their ad.

Display spending is on the rise?

Fast-forward 25 years later and online display advertising is still is on the rise. According to the latest IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, banner advertising in the U.S. is up 23% (including mobile and desktop). This increase in spend is likely due to the ever-evolving landscape of digital tools including mapping millions of customer data points, AI (artificial intelligence), and machine learning that allow advertisers to granularly target their audience at scale and serve them ads on any device or site they visit.

Programmatic media & online display

AI and machine learning are also revolutionizing programmatic buying—which uses algorithms to automate the buying, placement, and optimization of online media inventory via a bidding system—and emarketer reports that in 2018 more than 80% of display ads will be bought programmatically. (If you’d like a little refresher on programmatic buying, be sure to check out our programmatic 101 blog here.)

Unique from the antiquated days of placing banner ads, today advertisers have the ability to reach the holy grail of advertising—serving an ad to the right target, at the right time, and through multiple devices!

Where online display shines…

While the technology used to serve and deploy banner ads has dramatically changed, so should our methodology and expectations when launching a campaign. With an average click through rate of .06%, display ads can’t be deployed as a direct ROI or immediate conversion strategy. They are however vital to the greater advertising ecosystem and are ideal for:

  1. Branding

    Display ads are a phenomenal tool for building brand awareness and when delivered to the right audience can be less intrusive than other forms of advertising. They are efficient at driving brand recall, establishing market share, and increasing website traffic.

  2. Remarketing

    ‘Remarketing’ or ‘retargeting’ is a tactic used to serve ads to previous visitors of your website as they continue on their web journey. Remarketing encourages users to reengage with your brand after leaving your website. Advertisers using remarketing can expect (on average) a 76% higher click-through rate when using this tactic. The creative opportunities here are expansive—you can serve anything from special offers or discounts to an invitation enticing users to consider new information.

  3. Lead Capture

    When your ads are served to the right audience using a strong call-to-action that includes registering for an offer or submitting a form (such as a whitepaper download, template or free trial), display advertising can generate top-of-funnel leads.

How to make online display ads worth it 

Unlock success with your display efforts by following these key tips:

  1. Target the right audience

    All of the digital targeting capabilities in the world won’t help yield a successful campaign if you don’t know who you want to see your ads. Developing buyer personas is an excellent way to dive deeper in understanding your target audiences. (Click here if you need a helpful place to start with buyer personas). Once you’ve come to conclusions on your ideal customer’s demographics and psychographics, you’ll be equipped to make the best decisions on where to reach them online and prevent your ad from being served to non-prospects.

  2. Run across desktop and mobile

    Ensure your campaign is deployed across both mobile and desktop to ensure maximum reach. Media consumption habits vary in accordance to your audience and industry, so it’s in your best interest to be able to reach them on either device throughout their day.

  1. Be thoughtful about your call-to-action and landing pages

    It’s ideal to have a clear call-to-action button. Whether you are offering a whitepaper download, a free trial, or a discount, ensure that your call-to-action button and verbiage are clear and concise. It’s even more important that your landing page is impactful, relevant, and in alignment with your call-to-action. If it’s not, expect a high bounce rate.

  1. Creative is king

    Keep your creative clean, direct, and compelling. To cut through the web’s clutter use an eye-catching focal point that is unique to your brand and visually pleasing to your audience. Also ensure that your creative is responsive (designed to automatically adjust to the ideal size and appearance dependent on the viewer’s device and screen size).

  2. Test for the best

    A/B testing is a vital component to ensuring that you are running the most effective ads. You can test headlines, images, call-to-action, copy, fonts, and button colors against each other to gather empirical data to determine which ads perform best.

It’s an exciting time to rethink the capabilities and reach display offers, the unique ways it adds value to your marketing mix, and why online display ads are truly worth it.