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What is display advertising?

Display advertising is an essential avenue of marketing for modern businesses. Even if you’re unsure what exactly display advertising is, you’ve probably seen display advertising examples in action, pretty much any time you use the internet.

Understanding display advertising

A display ad is a visual ad, generally an image, GIF, or video, displayed online on third-party websites. All of the banner ads you see on websites, generally at the top and either side of the page, are online display advertising examples.

Traditional, print advertising has already been on a rapid decline for quite some time, and the COVID-19 pandemic further reinforced the notion that the internet is prime real estate for businesses looking to extend their reach.

Not every ad you see online is a display ad; you likely also see several native ads every day too. Unlike display ads which many might find disruptive to user experience, native advertising is designed to blend into the content of the platform it’s displayed on. You’ll often see native advertising as you scroll through social media feeds, like promoted posts on Reddit and Twitter, suggested posts on Facebook and sponsored posts on Instagram.

Display ads aren’t trying to hide, in fact, they’re trying to stand out. That’s why they’re often dynamic and colourful; the goal of a display ad is to draw your attention away from the content of the page and towards the banner ad that sits besides, above or below it (or sometimes right in the middle of it).

How does display advertising work?

Advertisers will use publishing networks, such as those offered by Facebook Ads and the Google Display Network, to publish, distribute, and analyse the performance of their ads. Through these services, you’re able to refine your target audience and tailor your content for different groups or demographics. For example, if you’re a pet shop, you’d be able to use a display ad network to ensure your ads are seen by users who already have an active interest in pets and animal products.

These services offer great tools for strategy and analytics so you can shape your ads around specific KPIs you wish to target.

Types of display advertising services

There three key types of display advertising services that a distribution network will offer:

  • Site placement advertising is when the advertiser chooses a specific website or websites to display their ad on.

  • Contextual advertising is when the publishing network will place ads on websites it deems relevant to the product or service being advertised.

  • Remarketing display ads might appear on various different websites, but they’re only displayed to users who have engaged with the business before, by visiting the brand’s website or clicking on a landing page without progressing to the desired conversion goal.

Why is display advertising important?

Whatever your goals, display advertising could be the key to achieving them. Of course, one of the clearest benefits of online display advertising is that they help raise brand awareness. An eye-catching, memorable ad with your brand name featured clearly, published across a range of websites or targeted directly to desired customers, is a sure-fire way to put your business in people’s minds.

How to approach display ads

Unless you’re using an ad blocker, it’s pretty hard to miss display ads, but they can be easy to ignore if they’re not particularly engaging. At this point, we’re all used to display ads, so we know how to pretend they’re not there and focus on the content we came for. Much like the ads you see in a tube station or on billboards and bus stops around town, online advertising space can get pretty overcrowded, and only the most captivating, relevant and creative ads will be remembered.

If you’re simply hoping to increase sales, digital display advertising with a clear call to action can certainly help. A display ad can be a great place to advertise a special offer or deal designed to increase sales, and you can link your ad directly to the product page or offer landing page to create an easy path to conversion for potential customers.

In the same sense, display advertising can be useful for lead generation. This might include advertising a trial period for your service, for example.  

As human attention spans continue to drop, it’s become more challenging to capture audiences through display advertising – but it’s by no means impossible. Perhaps the most important tip for creating digital display advertising is to keep it simple.

You could use the AIDA model to help craft your display ads for success. AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. In display ads, you have to hit these points in lightning speed, but it’s easy with the right design and approach.

Capture attention with alluring colour choices, format, and structure that draws eyes towards your ad. Maintain interest with a punchy, creative statement that conveys the distinct message of your product. Create desire with imagery and text that reinforces the relevance and uniqueness of the product, using a tone of voice and aesthetic that speaks directly to your desired customer. Finally, encourage action with a clear CTA and a link to a relevant page on your site.

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