The deeper we got into planning this issue of omma, devoted to display advertising, the harder it became to wrap our brains around the way the field has changed.
To an extent, it’s because the field has gotten so complicated, and those who specialize in it seem to delight in using a level of jargon that is practically impenetrable to most of the marketing world. Then there’s the whole pseudo-Wall Street element, with some people tossing around more trading-desk references than Gordon Gekko. (Writers p.j. Bednarksi, “Analyzing Attribution,” p. 24, and Laurie Sullivan, “What is Premium, Anyway?,” p. 18, shed some light.)
But I think the real reason it’s elusive is that it remains so astonishingly simple. Even the word “banner” has a kind of primitive ring: It’s the advertising medium poor Lancelot used to get his message across to Guinevere.
But simple doesn’t mean easy, and there are many ways marketers get display wrong, says Marketing Evolution’s Rex Briggs. (See “Does Display Belong on the A-List?,” p. 50.) Mostly, he says, advertisers try to get too creative and ignore the format’s basic tenet: Clear is better than clever.
Three of our favorite writers — Daisy Whitney, “Display’s Crazy Salad,” p. 8; Christine Champagne’s “Thinking Inside the Box,” p. 34; and Larry Dobrow’s “One Weird Old Tip to Avoid Bad Display Ads,” p. 40 — address the creativity question, including how far display has come, and how far it still has to travel.
But when it works, it’s a beautiful thing. And that’s why display, so routinely dismissed as a digital dinosaur, is enjoying a magical moment. Forrester predicts that investment in contextual listings, static image ads and rich media ads, and pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll online video will reach $27.6 billion by 2016.
Part of what’s fueling the growth is display’s aforementioned geekiness. As marketers balk at the rising costs of keyword searches, Forrester says, they are turning to the less expensive (and more effective) automated auctions.
“And yet, big brands still crave the three perennial Cs,” it says. “Control over placement, contexts that resonate with customers, and creativity that brings real impact to a message. A large share of digital ad dollars continues to flow to the clean, well-lit places because that is where branding still happens best.”
And about those “well-lit” places: Check out John Capone’s riveting “Can Google Be Stopped?” cover story (p. 28) about the digital powerhouses that fuel display, to see how, for now, it seems destined to trounce Facebook.
Got something you want to say about the state of display advertising? I’d love to hear it. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.