Dissecting The Demand of Display

Everyone is buzzing about the resurgence of display and the impact it is having on the digital advertising landscape. Although it's still not as big as search and may never be, it is the place where brand dollars are going to flow as more move online. I'd like to explore where the hype is coming from. 

Some of it can be attributed to new creative formats, and the ability to do more with standard units. Additional demand can also be seen from the distribution side, with increasingly easier access to inventory. Furthermore, there is the ever-popular shift from CTR as the defining display metric, which is a long and tough battle, but one that people in the display space seem to be winning. And, of course, there is the tremendous amount of "display" inventory available on Facebook. Whatever the topic, the excitement surrounding display advertising is very tangible.

Format Evolution

We have bigger screens and much higher screen resolutions today than ever before. As such, it was only natural that larger ad sizes and new creative formats would follow. But these new creative formats and advances in technology are also giving advertisers the ability to do even more with standard ad units. To me, it is one of the most exciting developments in display right now. Not just breaking the mold, but really improving the mold.  Bigger ads that are more engaging, more properly targeted and easier to set up -- that is display at its best.

Easy Inventory Access

Things were simpler 15 years ago -- not better, but simpler.  If you had a product and wanted to advertise it online, you went to a publisher and bought inventory from them. It was far from being cost-effective, it was tediously time-consuming, and it was very difficult to optimize. Today, access to inventory is at the tip of the finger.  There are more choices than ever with ad networks, DSPs, private exchanges, etc., which inevitably creates fragmentation. The fragmentation seemingly should lead to consolidation, but without more people, as Jerry Neumann says, this fragmentation will continue to live on to the benefit of ad tech entrepreneurs.

Beyond the CTR

As more TV dollars are shifting over to display, it's more important than ever to steer away from CTR as the key metric. There was a time when CTR made a lot of sense. With a static flash ad, the only measure was the click. Duh, let's track that. You couldn't put video into a traditional display ad and actually measure how much of it was watched, or if it was shared, or watched multiple times, etc. So the need for other metrics wasn't even established. You couldn't put a downloadable, printable coupon into an ad and track numbers that aren't even meant to generate a click-through. Brands realize the value of display, the dollars are reflecting that, and yet the measurements have not caught up (at least on a universal scale). 

The Facebook Effect

No, I'm not talking about David Kirtpatrick's love affair with Mark Zuckerberg. A lot of volume in the display landscape is being attributed to Facebook ads, I've heard as much as 31%.

Furthermore, this past month it was announced that Facebook overtook Yahoo! in US display advertising sales. It will be interesting to see how Facebook develops their ad platform, and whether they will introduce more engaging ads, similar to what Google has done recently by adding video and other rich functionality into their search ads.  I'm also interested to see what the rollout of Facebook Studio means for Brands on Facebook -- will that effort be limited to Fan Pages or will the platform be extended into display ads both on and off Facebook?

What are the next set of barriers that display needs to address to continue to propel forward at this rate?  Well, for one, a clear attribution model that properly reflects the value of display. Whatever happened to engagement mapping?  I also think the implementation of dynamic display must become easier. There is so much power in the ability to update ads on the fly without the need to re-traffic we're just not realizing yet.

Finally, getting all of this new technology and these new formats into the hands of the creatives will also help us continue to push the boundaries of what can be delivered inside of a banner ad.  Overall, the buzz seems to be culminating in the transformation and growth of display into the juggernaut that we've been anticipating. 

5 comments about "Dissecting The Demand of Display".
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  1. Mark Hughes from C3 Metrics, May 9, 2011 at 7:38 p.m.

    And remember comScore's landmark 2009 study citing the steep slide of Internet users who click on ads.

    View-Through tracking with a robust attribution model becomes paramount when you mix these three facts:

    1. Fewer people click on ads
    2. Unless using an attribution model, display is often denied credit since it is mid-funnel and upper funnel...miles away from the bottom of the funnel where last click and last view gets 100% credit when not attributing correctly.
    3. ROI, mistakenly, could look worse for the new large format ads due to the higher CPM's--unless measured with attribution correctly.

    Mark Hughes

  2. Mike Kelly from LIN Media, May 10, 2011 at 11:07 a.m.

    Some great points here and glad to hear display has been moved off the "editorial target for elimination" as so many talked about its demise as recently as a year ago.
    While larger, more creative ad units are having an impact and attracting more advertisers, the reality is, most of the $$ are attributable to the core premium ad units - 300X250 and 728X90. Click through rate is still very important, but a part of measuring success. As far as facebook is concerned, ask for/look at their CTR rates...dismal at best as display in social media is seen an "interruption of the conversation'.... which has been quoted by many CMOs.

    Display may never get its due credit for building brand/product awareness based on impressions, but as we build better, more compelling creative for and with our clients and we endeavor to go beyond the click...its value will increase over time.

  3. Steve Latham from Encore Media Metrics, May 10, 2011 at 7:27 p.m.

    That's a tough topic to cover in only 750 words but several drivers are explained well. I agree formats and more efficient buying is helping, but there are a few other drivers, namely:
    1. Continuing shift in budgets from traditional to digital media
    2. Maturing of search - paid inventory is maxed out
    3. Return of branding (vs. just DR) campaigns

    I agree growth in display will drive adoption of Attribution, but it appears the brands will have to lead the effort. Most agencies are aware of the need to attribute credit across all touch points, but only the best ones are proactively implementing solutions to do it.


  4. Myles Younger from Canned Banners, May 11, 2011 at 5:49 p.m.

    Don't forget about SMBs as a driver of display ad growth. There's no reason that display needs to remain dominated by brand advertisers, agencies, and esoteric technology. However, from Google's perspective: how much of that SMB display ad spend would be coming from existing Google search spend? And as you point out, attribution could be a key driver in getting SMBs to keep their marketing dollars in display, as opposed to trying it for awhile and backing out when it doesn't seem to be working. Except with SMBs, you have to boil all the geeky metrics down to a binary state: my display dollars generated sales in excess of my goal (green / smiley face) OR my display dollars did not generate sales in excess of my goal (red / frowney face).

  5. Ben Kartzman from Spongecell, May 13, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

    Appreciate the comments everyone. It's quite amazing how many more factors are driving this new display demand. @stevelatham I totally agree that the brands will be the ones to drive the attribution effort on the display side, but I hope that we can collectively push them to move as fast as possible.

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