Display Advertising: Going Through an Awkward Stage, but Here to Stay (and Prevail)

  |  October 17, 2012   |  Comments

Over the course of 2012, the U.S. display ad market will grow 21.5 percent to $14.98 billion from $12.33 billion in 2011, according to estimates by eMarketer.

Lately, it seems as if there's been a trend forming around the value of display advertising. There's been a lot of talk over click-through rates, ROI, and the demise of Flash-built ads. Some say the industry is dead, while statistics claim that display ads simply don't work. But, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Display ads are very much alive and well. It's the old look and feel of display ads that are kicking the bucket. We've all seen the studies and know from first-hand experience that the majority of display ads aren't all that intriguing. We ignore them and have grown accustomed to tuning out the "clutter" while we browse our favorite sites and blogs.

Display ads are kind of like a teenager - loud, annoying, inconsistent, and not really sure of how they fit into things. They learn every day and make changes to become fully functioning members of society, but for right now, they're still kind of figuring it all out.

Thankfully though, display advertising - just like teenagers - will eventually hit puberty. Just as their predecessors (radio spots, newspaper ads, television commercials, etc.) did, display ads are going through a period of transition, and are experiencing the normal growing pains and processes that all things go through.

Each advertising medium has had to figure out what works best for itself. It just takes time and practice.

Interactive Ads Prove Their Worth

One thing that's become apparent throughout this growing stage is that interactive display ads outperform static display ads. Rich media ads provide six times higher engagement rates and are much better at capturing your audience's attention. On top of this, rich ads offer more than 150 measurable elements so that you can track what's working and what's not.

Brands that use interactive, rich media ads see a 300 percent to 1,000 percent increase in ad interactions. That's one of the reasons that probably explains why the use of video in online advertising is predicted to grow by 55 percent in the U.S. by 2016.

If further evidence is needed that display advertising isn't walking the plank, Forrester Research just released a report stating that marketers will spend about 17 percent more annually for interactive display marketing in the U.S. between 2012 and 2017, and that U.S. interactive display media will grow from $12.7 billion in 2012 to $28 billion in 2017.

Five Ideas to Build Interactivity Into Your Ads

So how can brands begin building interactive elements into their online display advertising campaigns? This infographic gives more detail into why you need rich media ads.

  1. Incorporate a video clip from your YouTube channel.
  2. Use multiple scenes to keep the ad content fresh and rotating.
  3. Show off new or popular inventory with a product carousel.
  4. Create urgency around when a sale begins or ends with a countdown timer.
  5. Spread the word socially by adding social media buttons that make sharing content easy.

Barriers to Entry When Building Rich Media Ads

Until very recently, engineers have ultimately dictated what can and can't be incorporated into rich media ads. For small and mid-sized companies wanting to produce interactive ads, this has been the biggest barrier to entry into the world of high-engagement online ads.

The sheer time and cost associated with designing a beautiful, engaging display ad has been a huge pain point across the entire industry, and not just for smaller and emerging businesses. While large brands may have the capacity to hire graphic design teams, they still need creative agencies and teams of engineers to implement the coding necessary to pull off gorgeous ads that grab attention.

The ad tech industry has been looking for, and has come up with, solutions to overcome these hurdles; hurdles that boil down to finding a way to take the programming out of what should be a purely creative process.

Looking Forward

Simply put, agencies and brands alike need advertising technology that can assist them in producing high-engagement ads that live up to the quality that they're accustomed to in more mature advertising mediums, like television and print.

This year, according to eMarketer estimates, the U.S. display ad market will grow 21.5 percent to $14.98 billion from $12.33 billion in 2011, driven by the expansion of both Google and Facebook as advertising platforms.

Marketing teams have access to the best tools and pull off some pretty incredible marketing ploys, yet still, somehow, our web advertising is lacking. We spend so much time and money coordinating, planning, and executing thoughtful and engaging creative collateral across all other marketing channels - eye-catching print campaigns, hypnotizing television spots, interactive live social events - but now it's time for online ads to perform along with their fellow comrades in the well-oiled interconnected brand marketing landscape.

It's time to move past the old-school attempts at garnering a sale here and there, and focus on the next generation of online advertising. Seamless branding, smart interactive elements, and subtle customization are the next logical steps for the display advertising industry.

Blonde Teen Boy image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Aubrey Beck

Aubrey is the director of marketing programs at Salted Stone, a digital marketing agency in Southern California. She specializes in brand strategy and inbound marketing, working with emerging tech companies and B2B providers to identify their voice and create revenue-driving content plans.

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