We Need to Talk About Strategic Display Advertising

Gavin Duff27th April 2018 - Gavin Duff

We Need to Talk About Strategic Display Advertising

Display advertising has come a very long way since it was seen as the online equivalent of a print ad. But not everybody has moved with the times.

In the past few years, I’ve seen many display advertising plans for my clients, and they’re not cheap.

Your brand will be on some very popular and respected websites. That’s great.

It looks good for your brand to be there. It looks great internally that you’ve secured these placements. Your brand, product or campaign will be out there with one million eyeballs on it.

It’s sort of like this, except you’re on a great website:

Everyone knows about you. Job done.


Then it doesn’t convert.

And you don’t get a report that’s in any way useful or insightful.

So what happened?

The plan was lazy. In fact, it wasn’t a plan. It was just an outline of who you’re going to spend your money with and how many times your ad will be shown.

Your agency did what was promised. They managed to “deliver 1 million impressions to all online readership at the lowest CPM possible.” And to be fair, perhaps you hadn’t asked for more than that.

There was no strategy.

Your money has been spent poorly

When your campaign didn’t have the desired impact, your response might have been “But who were these readers and what’s a low CPM? Wait, you never even asked me exactly who we were trying to reach!

But it’s all hindsight. Your money has been spent, and spent poorly.

To put this in perspective, let’s remind ourselves of some facts. Click-through rates for display advertising are relatively low. Most users don’t think they are relevant. Display ads are more ignored than TV, radio and newspaper ads. Many users don’t trust display ads.

So to put it simply, you need: engaging creative, audience relevance, impact, and trust.

Knowing your audiences

A good display advertising plan is not enough, you need a strong display advertising strategy. It’s about knowing your audiences; where they are, what they are doing, what they’re interested in, at what stage of the cycle they are in, what life events are affecting them, and much more. Through knowing this, you can create relevancy.

By looking at your own business and customer base, you can create profiles. And research helps too.

Then, by knowing who you are targeting you can produce creative that’s engaging. You can show creative that speaks to them.

You will now also know where their playground is. If it’s Facebook, Twitter… then video may be a good choice because short, succinct, relevant and engaging video can be very powerful if targeted to the right people. And on Facebook and Twitter, it’s not hard to find the right people.

Segmenting your audiences is not a far cry from psychographic segmentation, as used for election campaigns.

When you do find the right people, you will need to know your Goals. What, exactly, do you want users to do when they get to your website? It may sound simple, but tracking even the smallest of engagements can be beneficial.

Be better equipped to ask the right questions

Know your website. Is it fit for purpose? Where will they first land, and is the journey to conversion up to scratch? This is hopefully a conversation that you’ve had well before you’ve even considered paying for display advertising.

If you want broad impact, like placements on a major newspaper website for example, then that serves its purpose. But you need to be better equipped to ask the right questions before agreeing your budget, and even your campaign dates:

  • Who is most likely to be on that website on those dates?
  • Within the ABC1 18+ audience, have they done further research into how engaged they are by site section, how more likely they are to be engaged by advertising by site section, therefore affording you more value?
  • Is there anything happening offline that may drive more visitors to that website on those dates, so that you might expect extra visibility and value for your investment?

“Won’t that just annoy people?”

I’d hate to not give retargeting a mention here. It’s a very powerful support to any campaign.

If you’re spending this money and sending users to your website, then you should be increasing the size of your retargeting audiences and lists with relevant people.

Retargeting is often referred to in negative ways. For example “Oh, it’s those ads that follow me around…” or “Won’t that just annoy people..?

But if done right and creatively, this is still a highly effective technique that can provide ancillary revenue, particularly if your creative is consistent with your campaign.

It’s not just a matter of placing a tag on your website and following people around with ads. I’ll admit that if done that way, it could be just plain annoying. There’s a strategy needed here.

Firstly, segment your audiences by how they have interacted with your website, either throughout the year or while in campaign.

  • If someone has only viewed the home page, then serve them ads displaying a rotation of the different products or services that you offer.
  • If someone has viewed a specific service or product, then remarket them with ads specific to that.
  • If they’ve added a particular product to their cart then show them this product – and if you can fulfill it, you could even offer a discount on that product if they return to purchase.

All of this depends on one core thing – you need to know when a user has converted. Without this, you’re serving them ads for a service they’ve already engaged with you for.

And very importantly, you may be serving them an ad offering a discount on a product that they’ve already bought!

Remarketing and cross-selling go hand-in-hand

But the journey doesn’t end when someone has purchased.

So, you’re Carphone Warehouse. Consider someone who has purchased the latest mobile phone from you – perhaps they may also consider complementary add-ons such as wireless charging pads, a cube speaker, headphones… or even broadband. Remarketing and cross-selling go hand-in-hand.

Even at that, your journey is still not over. If you can tie this into a user’s account data and their upgrade eligibility, then you may be able to eventually sell them a new mobile phone.

Another common myth is that you can only retarget users who have clicked on your Google AdWords ads. Not true – you can remarket anyone who has visited your website.

Lastly, remember your custom audiences. Create a matrix of those users who have visited one page or site section but NOT another.

For example in the B2B space, you may have website visitors who have read all about what you do, they may have even looked at your pricing. These are keen potential customers. So the next time you have a Webinar, use retargeting to let them know about it!

See? We told you it’s come a long way. So, the next time you see a display advertising plan, read this again. You may notice a few gaps.

Get in touch if you’d like to see how we can help create an engaging campaign for you.

Gavin Duff
Gavin Duff

For two decades, Gavin has defined effective digital marketing strategy, SEO, PPC, display, content, e-commerce, data analytics, conversion rate optimisation, and social media direction for businesses multinationally and across all sectors. He is also a known conference speaker, lecturer for Trinity College Dublin, podcast guest, media source, guest blogger and many other things in the area of digital marketing. He also holds a Dip. in Cyberpsychology, as well as AI and Machine Learning, and is a member of the Psychological Society of Ireland.

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