A 1-2-3 Punch to Display Advertising ROI

Let's boil this display beast down to a 1-2-3. For most of us, it can't compare to our search campaigns, so you should know how to take advantage of three emerging technology trends that are changing the Display vs. Search battle for a lot of marketers.

First Punch: Real-Time Bidding and Ad Exchanges
Used to be we looked at a spreadsheet to plan our media buys. As we got more data about our audience and the potential outlets to reach them, the spreadsheets grew. Ad networks added more variables for us to play with. Soon, we started looking like tired day traders, and we still weren't making major improvements in Display ROI. Enter automated, real-time bidding and giant ad exchanges that optimize media buys across literally millions of Web sites, making sure you buy only the impressions that are achieving your marketing goals. Call this the Wall Street meets Madison Avenue with Google AdX, Right Media, Microsoft AdECN, OpenX, and AdBrite all adopting real-time bidding, and a new set of companies such as MediaMath and RocketFuel building hedge fund like trading platforms for high-fidelity media buying in real-time.



Second Punch: Advanced User Intent Determination
The FTC has us all abuzz about behavioral intent targeting. But let's not forget that aside from behavioral, there are a bunch of downright game-changing user intent-gathering techniques: advanced geo-targeting, semantic targeting (understanding what keywords mean, rather than just extracting keywords), weather targeting, and even good ol' context. Search is successful partly because it has this intent determination thing down pat, and it has taken some time for Display to catch up. Using some or all of these techniques in our ad campaigns makes the difference. But to make these data work for us, we won't get very far without...

Third Punch: Intelligent Dynamic Ads
This is the secret ingredient that allows us to plug in the pipe of user intent data to do something scalable for us. There are just too many variables among peoples' locations, behavior, and interests to expect to resonate with our audience with just one creative message. There has to be real-time switching of the offer, product, or message that we show to our potential customers. The guy in snowy Denver reading about ski poles probably won't respond well to the snorkeling gear your sporting goods store offers, but you'll get his attention with your blowout on ski poles.

Score a TKO
The trick is to take all three of these strategies together for a holistic knockout campaign. Buy only the right impressions one-by-one with real-time bidding on ad exchanges (tip: don't spread out your bids across multiple vendors or you'll bid against yourself!), figure out the intent of each potential customer, and then tailor a specific message to each of them. The real key is finding a vendor that can combine all three of these things --real-time bidding, for instance, becomes much more efficient if you already know the user intent behind the impressions you're bidding on. Likewise, you'd be hard-pressed to bid on audiences reading about ski poles if you just ran out of that product and can't show it in your ad. It's the new feedback loop of online marketing, and in the right hands, it has the ability to finally make our Display campaigns perform as well as Search.

3 comments about "A 1-2-3 Punch to Display Advertising ROI".
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  1. Greg Satell, October 29, 2009 at 8:47 a.m.


    The benefits of all these technologies is very real, but the impact won't be as big as many people think.

    While direct marketing is great for getting consumers to act on preferences, it doesn't do much to build preferences. That's the real trick and where the bulk of marketing budgets go.

    - Greg

  2. Anshuman Misra from ICICI Bank Ltd, October 29, 2009 at 9:23 a.m.

    Looks like exiting times ahead for Display Advertising. Interesting lineup and commentary.

  3. Paul Knegten from Dapper, Inc., October 29, 2009 at 10:33 a.m.


    Well, I think in a DR world a lot can be accomplished with these tools, and I would disagree that big budgets won't (or already) go to it.

    Creating preferences is a much broader goal that should be holistic across several media. We're looking at display as a DR tool much further down the funnel, and they work hand in hand.

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