An Introduction to Display Advertising

What exactly is display advertising and how can it benefit your business?

Back in the 19th century, you generally had to take out print advertising if you wanted to promote a product or service to a wide audience. The 20th century heralded the advent of television and radio adverts, and we now live in the age of online advertising. This is commonly referred to as display advertising, a term which also describes booking space in a magazine or newspaper.
In terms of the www, display advertising takes many forms. It can involve any combination of text and/or still images, audio and animation or even full-blown video clips. Although some people try to distinguish between the two, most definitions of display advertising include the sponsored links that appear beside search engine results. Adverts strung across the top of a webpage are called banner ads, while adverts appearing at the side are rather unimaginatively called sidebar ads.
Unlike traditional print adverts where your best hope of tracking responses involved a “quote this code” request, display advertising online can be monitored with militaristic precision. You can get a multitude of impression data returned to you. Plus, every time someone clicks on an ad, a wealth of information can potentially be logged – everything from their precise location to the size of their display screen. Some ads will return more information than others, but the bill payer will usually expect basic statistical info about the number of people who clicked on the advert. This is known as the click-through rate, and it’s measured as a percentage of the number of times that advert was displayed on someone’s computer or device. Other metrics that could be helpful to you include CPM, which is cost per thousand, and CPI, cost per impression.
Pay per click
People are increasingly aware that browsing or buying online can affect subsequent display advertising. This is due to a concept called targeted advertising – effectively allowing computer programs to automatically allocate specific adverts to people who have previously expressed an interest in a certain subject. Search for baby clothes on eBay, and your next web browsing session might feature a surprisingly high proportion of sidebar and banner adverts for cots and nappies. This is because your web activity has been anonymously monitored, and your interest in baby clothes indicates you may be a suitable target audience for these related products. Web advertisers are increasingly broadening their scope; a search for baby clothes might now instigate banner ads for MPVs, for instance.
This behavioral targeting may appear sinister to the end user, and it has sparked considerable controversy among privacy advocates. To an advertiser, however, it offers the opportunity to channel marketing expenditure towards those most likely to respond. Since a perfect ad campaign would have a 100 per cent response rate, anything that weeds out disinterested or unsuitable audience members has to be enthusiastically encouraged. Effectively chosen advertising locations can also help, such as promoting sheds on a gardening website or marketing the services of private investigators on a genealogy site. It’s also possible to target adverts at specific age groups, genders, locations or other demographics.
Getting started with display advertising typically involves setting up a Google Adwords or Bing Ads account. This is perhaps the simplest form of display advertising, with compact text-and-image ads appearing alongside preordained search engine results. Users can choose which terms they want the advert to appear in response to; if your business is bridal photography, you don’t want to target people searching for anniversary gifts or divorce lawyers. However, you do want to target people who’ve recently shown an interest in engagement rings or honeymoon destinations. Microsoft and Google advertising accounts are sufficient to cover the vast majority of search engine customers, since Bing now powers Yahoo web searches. Both companies also make it surprisingly easy to create and manage an account.
Google adwords
This is display advertising at its finest, utilising a straightforward pay-per-click business model that only incurs expense when interested parties click on the advert. If they don’t click, you don’t pay, regardless of how frequently the advert is displayed. Costs range from pennies to dollars per click, depending on whether you want to outbid other people promoting their services in response to the same search terms. It’s also possible to specify criteria like maximum daily budget, or the sum you’re willing to invest to appear alongside a certain keyword or phrase. This makes budgeting very simple once the account is up and running. An alternative funding option involves paying per impression (each time the ad is displayed) rather than per click, although this offers less feedback and generally produces lower levels of effective targeting.
More sophisticated display advertising campaigns generally involve signing up with an advertising agency to spread thousands of ads across multiple websites, or signing a deal to be promoted on a specific site. These managed placements are only really advisable for marketing professionals with significant budgets, since PPC companies won’t be interested in anyone looking to spend less than $1,000 per month. Typical clients are large companies with serious spending prowess, which is why the majority of banner ads are for recognizable brands or services. Advertising agencies usually help to design the ads and ensure they meet all the correct technical criteria, effectively doing the hard work on your behalf. Due to the diversity of different platforms and specifications among today’s web-enabled devices, static ads represent a safer option than content that might not display – Apple hardware won’t display Adobe Flash animations, for instance.
Although it’s not the only method of promotion deserving of your cash, most businesses could benefit from online display advertising. The costs are as low as you want them to be, but the targeted nature of their appearance usually produces a higher response rate than more scattergun methods of promotion. You can even raise brand awareness at absolutely no cost with PPC, if people don’t click through for more details.