Programmatic Ad Formats Mini-Series: Display
June 07, 2018
This week we’re kicking off a new series of learning on the topic of Programmatic Ad Formats beginning with the most traditional method of digital advertising: display. It is worth noting that almost any ad format today can be accessed “programmatically,” meaning through a programmatic marketing platform that uses real-time bidding such as our own, as long as the technology provider has made the necessary connections to the inventory source available through the platform. For an overview of the difference between an ad exchange and a DSP, check our earlier post here.
How Display Ads Fit Into The Digital Advertising Ecosystem
With technology getting smarter every day, and advertising tactics following suit, it makes sense to check the pulse of the digital ecosystem every so often. Understanding the strength of different formats, and how they are being used successfully, is essential to optimizing the delivery of marketing messages – especially in complex campaigns. Also worth noting is the IAB’s “New Ad Portfolio,” which was set out just under a year ago. This impacted all digital display advertising formats and gave new guidelines for building display ads so that creative adjusts to a variety of screen sizes and resolution capabilities. The full document is worth reviewing if you’re in the business of creating display advertisements, you can take a look at it here.
This article will explore display advertising as a format, discuss how it is trending in the digital advertising industry, and identify the scenarios it is best used for to support tactical goals.
What Are Display Ads?
Unfortunately the industry refers to display ads as a general umbrella term for a multitude of different static and dynamic online advertisements in a number of different positions on a web page. This only causes confusion among advertisers about what exactly constitutes a display ad. Some people think any ad that appears like an image on a web page or in a mobile application is considered display – which isn’t the case. For example, native ads appear very similar to display and are often referred to as display, so making the distinction can be a bit tricky.
Generally, display ads are shown in website side-bars, headers or footers. These areas on websites have been sold to advertisers by website owners in conjunction with the large display network providers they work with. Revenue for website owners is generated by display advertising networks when they accumulate clicks and impressions. It makes sense for website owners to work with display networks as these networks essentially broker their ad-space for them by providing advertisers with a wide variety of attractive (relevant) websites on which to serve their ads. Most commonly, ad targeting for display networks is selected by audience interest or behavior rather than by specific URL’s – however, not always.
Most display ads are intended to generate preliminary interest through impressions (being seen) and quick conversions later through behaviorally targeted remarketing efforts.
Working With Display Ad Formats
With display ads, there isn’t a lot of space or time to capture attention and get the main message across. For that reason, maintaining hierarchy in display ad structure is important. Making sure that message and design elements stand out in the right order is essential to ensuring audiences digest the correct meaning in seconds. Critical components include the advertiser’s company logo, value proposition, and call to action. Bright colours and animation can also be beneficial – depending on the goals of the campaign. A small but important component that is sometimes overlooked is the use of buttons. Buttons have been shown to improve click-through rates dramatically and are best presented in contrasting colours at the bottom right side of the ad.
We Analyzed Display Ad Network Revenue Data to Draw Some Interesting Conclusions
Overall we can see that spending on display advertising is on the rise in North America as well as globally. In 2018 North American spending on display is estimated to reach over $58 billion. By 2022 it is expected to hit $96 billion. While it’s impossible to know with 100% certainty why this is happening, there are a few inferences that can be made when considering industry trends as a whole.
Their increase in popularity is likely due to two main factors. The first is the rapid expansion in ad inventory as brands compete by producing a growing supply of online content. This trend is creating advertising inventory on pages that are increasingly targeted as their subject matter becomes more refined. For example, if a website has ten general pages, it can only speak to a broad audience. When a website has thousands of pages of content, each digging a little deeper into a specific subject within the website’s interest category, there are far more ways to define how that inventory can be segmented for ad serving. The more specific the content becomes on a website, the more targeted ad serving can be. The more targeted ad serving becomes, the better it converts; so, it stands to reason that the recent big-bang of content has influenced display networks positively when it comes to ad performance.
The second factor has to do with advancements in analytics technology. Advertisers are getting an ever-refined view of online customer behavior. Since display ads have a close relationship with behavioral targeting tactics, they are serving a stronger role than ever in moving customers from stage to stage in their digital journeys by following them and ensuring that they take the advertiser’s next desired step forward. The chart below shows display ad engagement across devices and various KPIs.
The table below shows revenue by some of the most popular display networks to provide a sense of scale for the format.
|Revenue (and Projected Revenue) By Year In Billions|
|Google Display (Mobile)||1.96||2.47||2.97||3.38||3.89|
|Microsoft Display (Mobile)||0.21||0.25||0.31||0.36||0.40|
|Snapchat Display (Mobile)||0.30||0.57||1.03||1.81||3.08|
|Amazon Display (Mobile)||0.22||0.44||1.01||1.75||2.80|
As is made apparent above, display ads remain a thriving format for advertising in the digital space. Paired with AcuityAds’ sophisticated targeting algorithms, these ads can provide the perfect vessel to not only introduce brands to new audiences but also support the entire customer online journey at essential touch-points with little (and extremely targeted) reminders. Display ads are ideal when advertisers need to get their message across quickly and reach high-volume audiences. When high volume and high specificity intercept – that is where the magic happens. Display ads are not designed to be an in-depth exchange, rather, a message that can be translated in the blink of an eye.