What Is Display Advertising?

What Is Display Advertising?
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: November 29, 2023

Display advertising attracts your target audience's attention in many ways, from paid ads on social media platforms to sponsored messages on search engines.

Display ads come in various formats and can be challenging to understand, especially for marketing beginners.

Our guide explains everything about display advertising: what it is, how it works, and what's required to create an effective campaign that drives sales.

What Is Display Advertising?

Display advertising uses images, banners, videos, pop-ups, and interactive media to target audience on websites, social media platforms, or mobile apps. It uses targeting options to reach specific demographics based on location, interests, or browsing behavior. It aims to capture users' attention and generate awareness or interest in products, services, or brands.

According to eMarketer's latest forecast, in 2023, display advertising is set to overtake search in B2B digital ad spending. By 2024, it's projected to constitute 49.8% of this spend, amounting to $9.20 billion.

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Display Ad Targeting Process

Take advantage of display ad targeting by following these steps:

  • Identify your target audience: Determine the demographic characteristics of your desired audience, such as age range, gender, and location. Research keywords or phrases related to your products or services.
  • Match keywords with content: Ad networks use these identified keywords or phrases to match them with relevant content on websites where your ads will be displayed. For example, if your key phrase is "tacos," the ad network will match it with other bloggers' articles or blog posts about tacos.
  • Focus on a specific niche: Target a particular niche and ensure that all your published posts offer valuable and relevant content that aligns with your promotion. This helps to establish a consistent and cohesive message for your target audience.
  • Use browsing history: Take advantage of audience targeting based on users' past browsing history. If someone has shown prolonged interest in salsa recipes, serve them an ad about salsa cooking methods rather than displaying unrelated seafood recipes or generic beef stir-fry recipes.

Ten Types of Display Advertising

  1. Interstitial Ads
  2. Video Ads
  3. Interactive Campaigns
  4. Retargeting Ads
  5. Personalized Ads
  6. Custom Intent Ads
  7. Similar Audience Ads
  8. Contextual Advertising
  9. Topic Targeting
  10. Site Placed

Display ads vary significantly regarding the targeted audience and how they work. The display ad types include:

Interstitial Ads

Interstitial or banner ads are the most common type of display and programmatic advertising format. They are hyperlinked, image-based ads in the shape of a strip.

These are the advertisements that appear before the desired web page loads. They take up the whole screen, effectively capturing the user's attention.

Video Ads

According to research, around 30% of Internet users find traditional banner advertising a bit distracting. That’s why advertisers are looking for better ways to display ads.

Video ads are an increasing part of display advertising management strategies. They can be viewed by anyone with access to an ad platform on their smartphone or computer, so they’re great for reaching people who may not otherwise come across your brand or product.

Interactive Campaigns

Interactive campaigns are a combination of text and images that can be displayed in multiple ways, such as 3D animation, video or interactive elements such as games or quizzes.

This type of ad allows you to engage with potential customers in various ways: by connecting them with content like videos and polls that assess how interested they are in learning about your brand.

It can also be done by offering discounts or incentives based on their answers to questions about what products or services they would like to use next time.

Retargeting Ads

Most display ads are remarketing campaigns because they allow marketers to retarget consumers who have visited their website or clicked on an ad.

Retargeting campaigns have become widespread thanks to the trend toward ad personalization. Research shows that 91% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands that remember their wants and give offers based on their needs.

Here's how they work:

  • First, ensure you've implemented the code on your website that gathers information about your visitors' navigating and browsing behavior.
  • Create lists of types of customers and the advertising messages that would most probably appeal to them.
  • Place display ads based on the various categories of interest you have gathered and observed.

Personalized Ads

These allow advertisers to identify and target consumers that fit specific parameters. These parameters may vary depending on the advertiser's particular needs, but each can be customizable according to what type of consumer they are looking for.

For example, affinity targeting allows advertisers to reach many people across a wide range of demographics while still being able to segment out specific types of interests (e.g., car enthusiasts).

Custom Intent Ads

Custom intent ads allow advertisers to advertise only to those who exhibit an active interest in what they're selling (e.g., long-distance runners or orchid growers).

This strategy reduces the number of people reached while increasing personalization through more narrowly defined characteristics.

Similar Audience Ads

This functions similarly to custom intent ads. However, it uses data from existing customers instead of new prospects, eliminating this drawback altogether.

Contextual Advertising

Instead of displaying your ads to people based on their user profiles, contextual advertising places your advertisements on websites or videos according to certain criteria. These criteria include:

  • Your ad's topic and keywords.
  • Your language and location preferences.
  • The hosting website's overarching theme.
  • The browsing histories of the website’s recent visitors.

You can let Google make these determinations for you or take an active role in it yourself through topic targeting.

Topic Targeting

This is similar to Affinity Targeting, except instead of being placed next to a specific person (user), they're displayed on pages within the display network or YouTube. Topics might range from travel holidays or shoes.

Site Placed

Site-placed ads are the most common type of display ad. Sites run custom-made ads on their sites, which allows you to target your audience in a much more targeted manner than with an impersonalized organic search.

These are also the most flexible type of display ads. You can choose to advertise on a site or a specific page within that site.

It's an ideal option for advertisers who want to hand-pick the websites that will host their ad.

With site placement targeting, you can choose to place your ad on entire sites or individual pages within sites. You can also combine this option with contextual targeting so that Google selects the most relevant pages for your ad based on what's already happening on those pages.

Native Ads VS Display Ads

Native and display ads have different characteristics and objectives:

Native Ads

Native ads blend seamlessly with platform content, offering an organic feel. Their characteristics include:

  • Integration within articles, social media posts, and in-store formats like Facebook or Instagram stories.
  • A focus on engaging the audience with valuable and relevant content that aligns with the platform's user experience.
  • A non-disruptive approach, aiming for a natural integration into the user's experience.

Display Ads

Display ads are visually distinct and aim to capture attention quickly. Their features are:

  • Appearance as banners, images, or videos on various platforms.
  • Clear intent to promote products or services with persuasive messaging, striking visuals, and strong CTAs.
  • Reliance on their visual impact for quick message conveyance and brand recognition. They often use eye-catching visuals and multimedia elements.
  • Easier creation and placement process compared to native ads, allowing for rapid development without needing complex integrations or extensive technical expertise.

Both ad types serve different purposes and should be chosen based on campaign objectives, target audience, and overall advertising strategy.

Get connected with the right display ad agency for your project.

Pros and Cons of Display Advertising

When appropriately implemented, digital advertising can bring many benefits, but it also has a few cons you should be aware of.

Pros of Display Ads

Display advertising advantages include:

  • Improved branding: Display ads visually showcase your product or service, helping to create strong brand awareness and recognition among potential customers.
  • Efficient communication: Display ads, especially those with videos and attention-grabbing imagery, can quickly convey your message, capture the audience's attention, and effectively deliver your key selling points.
  • Precise targeting: Display ads allow you to target desired audiences based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. Advanced targeting options help reach the people interested in your offerings, increasing the chances of conversions.
  • Wide audience reach: Display ads can reach a large audience across websites, social media platforms, and mobile apps, increasing brand exposure and awareness.
  • Retargeting: You can reconnect with leads who have previously visited your website or interacted with your ads, reminding and persuading them to convert.
  • Easy implementation: Display ads are relatively easy to implement, requiring little or no complex integration with publisher sites. They do not demand extensive technical expertise (unlike content direct response marketing, which requires much more consideration to be implemented correctly), making them accessible to advertisers without specialized knowledge.

Cons of Display Ads

However, display ads also have some drawbacks:

  • Potential disregard: The visual nature of display ads may lead some audiences to disregard them automatically, especially if they tend to ignore display ads in general. However, this also has a positive aspect since instant recognition can occur for those who notice the advertiser, thus increasing brand awareness.
  • Scroll-past behavior: Some users may quickly scroll past display ads without reading or engaging with the content. This behavior can limit the ad's effectiveness in capturing attention and generating desired actions.
  • Ad blockers: Many internet users use ad-blocking software to avoid intrusive or irrelevant ads. Ad blockers limit the reach and impact of display ads as they are prevented from being displayed to these users.

How To Manage Display Advertising

Your display ad management effort should be focused on optimizing these critical metrics so that you can drive more conversions and generate more revenue from your display ad investment.

When you want to measure the success of your ads, one way is by tracking how many people saw them. This comes down to counting the number of views on your display ad - also known as impressions. Tracking this figure helps assess your display advertising campaign's efficiency and ensures you're hitting the right target audience with each new campaign you start.

An impression is counted every time an ad appears on a website or placement (basically everywhere).

For something to count as a click, it has to be someone who clicks through - whether they are targeted correctly or not does not matter.

Finally, but most importantly, there's conversion rate - which measures all these other metrics against what matters most: Did this lead to someone buying something?

Key KPIs for Display Ads

When measuring and managing the performance of display ads, it's essential to track key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide insights into the effectiveness and impact of your campaigns.

Critical KPIs you should monitor include:

  • Impressions: The number of times your display ads are displayed to users. Impressions indicate the reach and visibility of your ads - the more impressions you have, the bigger your ad reach is.
  • Reach: The number of users who saw your ad. This metric is often confused with impressions.
  • Click-through Rate (CTR): The percentage of users who click on your display ads after viewing them. CTR measures ad engagement and can indicate the effectiveness of your ad copy, visuals, and call-to-action in enticing users to act.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of users who complete a desired action after clicking on your display ads. Conversion rate measures the effectiveness of your ads in driving actual conversions or desired outcomes.
  • Cost: You should continually monitor and optimize your advertising campaign cost. Use cost-per-click (CPC) - the average cost incurred for each click on your display ads. Another option is cost-per-mile (CPM) or cost per thousand impressions.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): The overall profitability and return on your display ad investment.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): The revenue generated from the amount spent on display ads. ROAS helps measure the profitability and effectiveness of your ad campaigns, providing insights into the return on your advertising investment.
  • Engagement Metrics: Metrics like time spent on the site, page views, and bounce rate provide insights into the engagement and interest generated by your display ads. These metrics help assess the impact of your ads on user behavior and website interaction.

By monitoring and analyzing these key KPIs, you can gain valuable insights into your display ads' performance, identify improvement areas, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your display advertising strategies.

If you need help keeping track of your KPIs, check out these advertising agency websites that can assist you.

Display Ad Quick Tips

To additionally improve your display advertising campaigns, follow these tips:

  • Prioritize the reader's experience: Avoid intrusive ads like pop-up auto-play videos that cannot be easily dismissed. Such tactics can frustrate and discourage your audience.
  • Use static ads: Consider placing static ads alongside or within content instead of disruptive ads. While they may be smaller, they allow you to share important details with your audience.
  • Keep to the point: Be concise and focus on essential information in your ads to ensure your message is easily understood.
  • Don’t skimp on quality: Ensure your ads look visually appealing. Use high-resolution images, choose a clear and readable typeface, and design a distinctive logo that stands out.
  • Ensure quality control: Before exporting your ad, review every image to ensure it appears as intended. This step provides an extra level of assurance for the visual quality of your ad.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of CTAs: Encourage user engagement by incorporating a strong and persuasive CTA in your ads. CTA motivates users to take the desired action.

Display Advertising: Final Thoughts

If you want to build your brand's image and get more people interested and talking about it, display advertising could be just what you're looking for.

If you're looking for a way to build your brand's image and get more people interested and talking about it, display advertising could be just what you're looking for. There are plenty of top advertising agency websites you can choose from, or browse our directory of best ad agencies or best B2B advertising agencies to get connected with the right one for you using DesignRush Marketplace.

Display Advertising FAQs

1. What's the difference between native ads vs. display ads?

Display ads are designed to stand out and attract user attention with their format and colors. On the other hand, native ads seamlessly blend within website content without being interruptive or aggressive.

2. What are display ads best for?

Display ads are best for:

  • Boosting brand awareness (branding)
  • Promoting products, services, and events
  • Visual storytelling
  • Retargeting users who previously visited your website or interacted with your ads

Display ads can reach a large audience and target specific demographics, which makes them suitable for all businesses that aim to expand their customer base.

3. What are examples of display ads?

Display ad examples include banner ads, video ads, rich media ads, pop-ups, and retargeting ads.

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