Most people don’t like display ads. Is that a good argument for ditching them? In this case, yes.
In advertising, we can’t get caught up in popularity contests; we have to be rational and honest with ourselves and do what’s best for the brand.
People have always been critical of different advertising mediums throughout history, but the advertising industry always felt the business results were worth the criticism.
If the general consensus is that something really sucks – or more importantly, the data actually supports that notion – maybe it should be dropped. It seems like the digital economy was built on 300x250 banners, but do they have a place in its future? In my view, no.
This notion isn’t new. P&G, Uber, and Unilever have all made headlines for drastically reducing or cutting display spend altogether.
Here are four reasons why I think it’s time for everyone else to ditch display ads:
Performance. I suppose it’s cliché to reference John Wannamaker in an industry-targeted article, but despite astounding advances in tracking technology, we still don’t seem to know which half of our advertising actually works and which half doesn’t.
Last-click attribution is clean and simple from a tracking standpoint, but it’s lucky if a display campaign gets a small fraction of a percentage point click-through rate (CTR). I’ve been told a campaign with a .05% CTR was a high performer, which is frankly delusional.
Some websites push view-through metrics because they pump up numbers and help justify the “display ads are reserved for the top of the funnel” narrative, but this viewpoint lacks a significant amount of context. Did a view-through conversion come from someone who was going to buy anyway, or did the system count an impression that loaded but was not actually seen?
I’m not even going to get into the broader discussion on fraudulent clicks, I’d just like to note that display ads are so ineffective that spam bots can’t even produce fake results that look good.
User Experience. If bots aren’t interacting, are people? We’ve all tried to load pages that are completely bogged down with ad units, exiting before getting a chance to do what we came there for. Imagine this on a scalable ad network: millions of publishers with free access to programmatic ad units can place banners of varying sizes on their site with little restriction.
More ad units mean more revenue per page load, but more ad units also mean slower (and therefore, less) page loads. The ideal balance is difficult to achieve, and there is no standard method for doing so.
While Facebook, Google, YouTube, and other standardized platforms are not without their problems, they do offer one thing that display units do not: predictability. If I click on a YouTube video, I know I’m going to have to sit through at least 5 seconds of pre-roll and I’ll put up with it since I know what’s coming. Marketers need some say over the user experience to know how to adapt their ad strategy, but display networks offer no such control.
Audience Targeting. Researcher Nico Neumann analyzed programmatic targeting data against verifiable information about individuals in the targeting pools and found anywhere from a 10-to-85 percent discrepancy across different sets. A 10% discrepancy isn’t bad, but an 85% discrepancy is unusable. This really comes down to algorithmic transparency. With display ads, there is none. Buyers cannot verify audience matching. We have to trust the sellers. Performance, user experience, and bad targeting all diminish the value of advertising, which leads to the last point.
The Economics Are Broken. Websites rely on revenue from display advertising, a product whose value keeps decreasing. This incentivizes creators to write for eyeballs, not exclusively for integrity. When the value of content decreases, the fundamentals of advertising effectiveness – targeting, engagement, the ability to incite action – decrease as well. The stats are weak, we lack control over the experience, the audience targeting is inconsistent, and the value is dropping.
It’s time to finally ditch display ads in our marketing efforts.