What are Display Ads, and How Can They Help You in 2019?

December 18, 2018
Written by
Warren Duff
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

What are Display Ads, and How Can They Help You in 2019?

There are so many different forms of advertising out there, and more are created all the time. As a marketer, you have a plethora of choices when you want to promote your brand: billboards, radio spots, podcast sponsorships, and even television commercials are all options when it comes to teaching people about your brand or company.

The fact is, however, some forms of advertising are a bit more targeted and effective than others. For instance, email marketing is extremely effective because you’re sending a message to people that (ideally) have asked you for more information. This means there’s a really high likelihood that they’ll be interested in your email and choose to engage with it.

Display advertising is another excellent example of effective, targeted advertising. In order to teach you more about display ads, let’s take a look at what display ads are NOT:

Paid Search

Paid search ads aren’t considered display ads. The most common example of paid search ads are the text ads that appear at the top of search results on sites like Google or Bing. They’re generally text ads without any graphics, and they’ll often direct people to specially designed landing pages.

In-Stream Video

In-stream video ads are a lot like mini-commercials, and aren’t display ads. The most common example of in-stream video ads are the ads that play before a video on sites like YouTube. These are called pre-roll video ads, and they can also appear in the middle (mid-roll) or at the end of a video (post-roll).

So, What IS a Display Ad?

Display ads are most commonly thought of like the ads at the top or side of a website, surrounding the content. They come in lots of different sizes, shapes, and flavors. If you recently visited an ecommerce website, and considered purchasing a product or two, you likely saw a display ad for the same product when visiting other websites online.

Below is an example of a Peloton display ad that I saw on the Denver Post website. I was recently looking at their bikes on their website, but closed my tab before pulling up the newspaper.

Another common example of a display ad are the ads that appear within a feed on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Below are some examples of what a display ad might look like on your mobile device when using one of those social media apps:

Why is display advertising important?

Unlike other, more traditional forms of advertising, display advertising is super targeted. You can use your current email contact list to create an audience of people, and then show those people very specific display ads that remind them to make a purchase or return to your website.

Because of this, display advertising and in-stream video advertising are both expected to grow faster than other forms of digital advertising in the future. The graph below shows the expected growth of display advertising from Forrester's US Digital Marketing Forecast: 2016 To 2021:

Display advertising is important because this is where people are spending more and more of their time, which makes it an ideal channel to reach potential customers.

Benefits of Display Advertising

There are many great benefits of display advertising for marketers of any kind:
  • Robust targeting capabilities - With display ads, you can create very specific segments from your own contact lists. Target people who didn’t engage with your last email campaign to reiterate value they might have missed. You can also get your ads in front of new people by building “lookalike” audiences that are based on the shared characteristics of your current email list.
  • Low starting costs - As opposed to other advertising channels like TV or radio, which require large investments in the actual advertisement, it’s relatively cheap to start running display ads. With just an image and some text, you can start running display ad campaigns that will help you drive traffic back to your website.
  • Advanced tracking - As with other forms of digital advertising, display advertising is very trackable. When your ads are live, you’ll know exactly how many times your ad was displayed, how many times it was clicked, and you can then link those actions to activities on your website like purchases.

How To Get Started

For most marketers, figuring out how to advertise on platforms like Google or Facebook can be daunting. There are lots of knobs and dials available to turn, but it is not exactly clear which ones you should be turning.

The best place to get started is to determine your display advertising goals. Having a goal that you can reference and refine over time will help you figure out where you should spend your time and your money, your two most valuable resources.

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