Over the past year or two, many adver­tis­ers who rely heav­ily on dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing as part of their direct response strat­egy that has tra­di­tion­ally focused on search engine mar­ket­ing (SEM) and Email adver­tis­ing have been dip­ping their toe into Dis­play adver­tis­ing.  His­tor­i­cally, those adver­tis­ers have viewed Dis­play as part a brand­ing chan­nel of the dig­i­tal ecosys­tem based on the silo approach of direct response and brand adver­tis­ing in many companies.

As long time dis­play chan­nel adver­tis­ers know, dis­play is very broad and cov­ers a lot of dif­fer­ent types of media inven­tory, buy­ing sources as well as end­less tar­get­ing options. So it is cer­tainly a chan­nel that can be uti­lized for any type of pur­pose or busi­ness goal.

Given this array of tar­get­ing options, what are the main strate­gies that suc­cess­ful dis­play adver­tis­ers employ for their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns?   Some of the top strate­gies include:

For the last 2 years, every com­pany from Google to small agen­cies have been pro­mot­ing retar­get­ing for their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns quite sim­ply because it works almost every time. Essen­tially, retar­get­ing involves tar­get­ing vis­i­tors to a client’s web­site (usu­ally who didn’t take the desired action of fill­ing out a form, buy­ing a prod­uct, etc.) and serv­ing them dis­play ads as they browse around the web on var­i­ous sites.  The basic premise being that because of their prior visit, this audi­ence group has a higher like­li­hood than the aver­age per­son to even­tu­ally take that desired con­ver­sion action.

Fig­ure 1: Retar­get­ing (Site) Exam­ple Workflow

This form of dis­play tar­get­ing in prin­ci­pal works in a sim­i­lar man­ner to how a TV or print adver­tiser decides which tele­vi­sion net­work and show or news pub­li­ca­tion to buy media advertising.

If you are offer­ing a finance prod­uct, chances are that your mes­sag­ing appear­ing on pub­lisher sites like Yahoo! Finance or Bloomberg will have a greater like­li­hood of res­onat­ing with an audi­ence than a lifestyle site like Baby­cen­ter. This extends in a sim­i­lar vein when you are talk­ing about demo­graph­ics such as age, gen­der, income lev­els, etc.

One of the lim­i­ta­tions of retar­get­ing is that your vol­ume is lim­ited to the audi­ence that has vis­ited your site. Thus, the only way to grow this vol­ume is by increas­ing traf­fic to the site. Many com­pa­nies have sprung up in recent years in part to help fill this void by sell­ing data to adver­tis­ers and their marketing/technology part­ners to increase the qual­i­fied pool of peo­ple to tar­get. There are many forms of this data, but a cou­ple of the major forms include prior brows­ing habits on other sites and prior search engine queries.
For exam­ple, if you are a travel adver­tiser sell­ing hotel accom­mo­da­tion in Las Vegas and you can tar­get some­one who recently searched for that in a search engine or indeed was brows­ing on another travel site but did not con­vert, that is a valu­able audi­ence to tar­get.
It is impor­tant to state that this data is not per­son­ally iden­ti­fi­able and does not con­tain infor­ma­tion that an indi­vid­ual would con­sider pri­vate like a social secu­rity num­ber, credit card details, home address, etc.   

Another ben­e­fit of dis­play adver­tis­ing, which dif­fers from SEM, is the abil­ity to tar­get an audi­ence directly. There­fore if you have a multi-stage fun­nel sales process as most busi­nesses tend to have, mar­keters can mes­sage peo­ple indi­vid­u­ally to both the stage of the fun­nel that the cus­tomer is in or tai­lor to the spe­cific prod­uct or ser­vice he or she may be inter­ested in.

For exam­ple, if you are a retailer who sells red and blue shoes of var­i­ous brands, you can dynam­i­cally serve that par­tic­u­lar prod­uct or sim­i­lar prod­ucts to a con­sumer who browsed that par­tic­u­lar prod­uct page on your site. In a sim­i­lar vein, in a multi-funnel process if the mar­keter is in the pub­lish­ing busi­ness that is offer­ing a free 7 day trial, the com­pany can serve those that have not signed up for the trial dif­fer­ent mes­sag­ing to those that have but not com­mit­ted to a full paid subscription.

Real Time Bid­ding prob­a­bly requires a whole series of posts and as Dis­play (and other forms of dig­i­tal) adver­tis­ing con­tin­ues to evolve, will prob­a­bly viewed less as a strat­egy and rather the default best prac­tice of how media is bought and sold. With­out get­ting overly tech­ni­cal, RTB is bid­ding for each indi­vid­ual impres­sion each time a given pub­lisher site loads. When applied with a robust algo­rithm and advanced plat­form that is able to bid for that inven­tory with the ROI cri­te­ria for a given adver­tiser in mind, it allows for each impres­sion of media to be priced cor­rectly given the browser who may be exposed to the cre­ative message.

With all these Dis­play strate­gies, there is lot of com­plex­ity that can be employed to max­i­mize ROI and to avoid redun­dancy in mar­ket­ing out­lay. Ulti­mately, not only should these cam­paigns be opti­mized cor­rectly and effi­ciently as stand­alone mar­ket­ing efforts, they should be tracked and opti­mized in con­junc­tion with other online media chan­nels like SEM and social media to ensure the best pos­si­ble return for ad spend.

Chris Jacob