I probably hear the glib “display is dead” proclamation a little less than Peter Minnium does, but the sentiment is definitely out there. The truth is display, and more specifically, interruptive display advertising isn't dead, it's just evolving to be more polite and measurable.
First a primer on the different ways a marketer can capture attention:
Trick. Every medium has its version of "native advertising" - from the advertorial in Reader's Digest to the soap opera or today's infomercial on TV. The idea with native advertising is that an audience will start consuming an ad because they can't discern it from regular content, and the hope is that they won't feel offended or tricked. In the long run it becomes harder to fool people (witness the shift from shading to a shrinking ad marker in Google's adwords) which, combined with the publisher brand equity being lost, is why native advertising tapers in every medium.
Earn. Create great content, branded utility. This is the best opportunity to capture attention in an authentic and positive fashion, but it's incredibly hard to plan, produce at scale and replicate.
Pray. Adjacent advertising, like 300x250s or billboards have massive reach and scale but not very efficient at capturing attention. For the most part, adjacent ads aren't polite. They rely on distracting readers from content or surroundings to capture attention. It's been shown that more obnoxious adjacent advertising causes people to spend less time with content.
Interrupt. Interruptions involve placing an advertiser message in the stream of content that an audience is consuming. Social feed ads, 30 second spots on TV, full page print advertising are all interruptive. (do i need something about how interruptive isn’t all roses?) Interruption is the best way to capture attention at scale, but it must adapt for the digital era.
Interruptive advertising has been the foundation of the media business since it's inception. Historically TV, print and radio have all been monetized by interruptive ads and today in-feed, in-read and other in-line formats are capturing the lion’s share of new ad dollars.
The trick with digital advertising is to drive an interruptive experience in a way that respects the reader. For this types of ads I propose the moniker Polite Interruptive advertising.
Politely interruptive ads have three characteristics:
they are interruptive
persist for an amount of time controlled by the reader
using behaviorally native engagement
Control over time on screen is how people are used to engaging with media today.. on their terms. They expect to determine what content is consumed and for how long. Mobile audiences are more receptive to ads that take into account how they are engaging with content.
Most politely interruptive ads are behaviorally native. This means that the ad is shown using the same behavior as content consumption, eg you page through magazine articles and ads, you tap and hold to watch a snapchat message and a snapchat ad.
Think of media as a conversation between publisher and audience. If the advertiser is going to capture attention, even with the blessing of the publisher, it's important that they do so in a polite way. The ideal scenario is probably something like walking up to someone as the publisher steps aside, apologizing for the interruption, offering them your message and going away if they'd rather not hear more about it. This is a polite interruption and is what advertising should strive for.