Why You Should Spend More Time (and Money) on Display Advertising Hero Image

October 02, 2018

Filed under: Knowledge

Why You Should Spend More Time (and Money) on Display Advertising

By Cali Pitchel Schmidt, creative director

It’s easy to not care about display advertising. The bar for creative is low, the ad accounts are easy to mismanage (which leads to overspending), and more often than not, they’re a nuisance for the consumer. Who likes banner ads following them around the internet? (We've all been stalked by that pair of shoes from Nordstrom—sometimes even after we've bought them.) Most digital marketers relegate display ads to the bottom of their marketing mix strategy—as an afterthought or a necessary evil. Some even suggest you shouldn’t waste your money on display ads at all, as they're the “least likely to be seen and have the lowest return on investment of any other digital advertising tactic.”

To that, we’d say you’re wrong. Unless you don’t give a shit—then maybe you’re right. But what if you started to actually care about your display advertising? What if you decided to make a meaningful investment in display, rather than phoning it in or checking a box? Bad creative doesn’t convert. Spray-and-pray marketing doesn’t convert. But personalized display marketing can drive better results for less spend. There is, however, a caveat: You have to make the proper investment in the content and the strategy.

Impression-based display strategy

We most often think of display advertising in terms of clicks rather than impressions, because conventional wisdom tells us it’s more expedient to pay for clicks than impressions. But when you take greater control over your display strategy, choosing managed placement over a general display network, you can start to take advantage of the pay-per-click (PPC) model for impressions—for raising brand awareness. (In case you need a reminder: The only way to get to a click is through an impression.)

We call this an impression-based display strategy. Display ads can offer prime real estate for your content, if only you’d give them the respect and attention they deserve—if only you’d be strategic. The best strategies are specific, and most display networks allow for a great amount of specificity. With managed placement, you can target based on myriad data—demographics, psychographics, interests, apps, topics, websites, and more. And unlike other targeting methods, like keywords or topics where your ads are placed on sites automatically for you (reported in your account as automatic placements), you select managed placements yourself.

Good taste, good ads

Bill Bernbach, in 1947, penned a letter to the owners of Grey Agency, where he was employed at the time. The company was growing—a cause for both celebration and for consideration. Bernbach aired his fears, namely “that we’re going to worship techniques instead of substance.” It’s easy to fall in this trap, for display advertising to become route; to become, as mentioned before, an afterthought. It’s only when you stop thinking of display advertisements as an afterthought that you can really increase their effectiveness. Bernbach closed his letter on a high note, demanding more from his colleagues: “Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.”

The big point here is this: Every piece of content you create, even a display ad, should be considered part of the value exchange with a customer. If you don’t care about display ad creative, you’re wasting money. Plain and simple.