Evolution of Display Ads

The Comeback Kid

Display_AdvertisingAs online advertising comes of age and exceeds traditional broadcast and cable television ad revenue, we can attribute much of this success to the often overlooked and low-cost option known as the Display Banner. An unsung hero made up of attention-grabbing copy, rich media graphics and a straight-forward call to action, the display banner has undergone a radical transformation; from a chaotic collection of sizes and designs that resembled the early days of Spam, to a system of highly structured ad serving networks, bid management systems, and universal standards. Today’s display banners have the potential to be anything but boring- ranging from simple text links all the way to more sophisticated fully functioning “mini websites” that can display on any electronic screen. Essentially, display advertisements allow businesses to monetize their website traffic by providing valuable information to customers on behalf of a brand in exchange for consumer clicks.

In the Beginning

It all began in 1994 when AT&T became the first company to buy ad space in large quantities from HOTWIRE, a now-defunct online magazine. AT&T was looking to promote “You Will”, an advertising campaign designed to take audiences on a virtual tour of 7 of the world’s greatest museums. At a cost of $30,000 for three months of placement and using 56K modem speeds, this campaign delivered a rich user experience that paid off through an unprecedented 44% Click-Through Rate! To put this in context, consider that today’s online display banner averages a mere 0.06% CTR – Less than 1 click per 1,000 impressions. Some of the most important developments in the world of display advertising came from small tech companies during the Dot-com boom of the 90s. Eventually, many ended up under the umbrella of larger internet companies- most notably an early application service provider by the name of DoubleClick. A subsidiary of Google, DoubleClick is best known for its Dynamic Advertising Reporting and Targeting technology. DART’s origins can be traced back to Packard Bell in the mid 90s and was later improved by Overture based on a proprietary Paid Placement model, (now a Yahoo company). Using DART cookies stored in users computers, DoubleClick can serve display banners that have the ability to reference several key criteria, including:

  • IP address
  • Frequency capping controls
  • ISP
  • Bandwidth
  • Time of day
  • Operating system

This “intelligent” banner technology is also available in other flavors like Search, DFP, DFA, and Enterprise, however it is important to note that it has also sparked much controversy among online privacy advocates and consumers who want more intuitive opt-out options, and fear the risk of malware ending up in unsuspecting consumers computers. As a designer and content creator it is critical for us to keep these concerns in mind when working closely with our campaign strategy and when building work-arounds against the increased use of pop-up blockers and the pitfalls of banner blindness.


Credits: Infolinks Blog

The Challenges Ahead

The average consumers interacts with about 2,000 banner ads across multiple online channels and devices per month. During this process less than 15% of them build brand awareness, evaluate products and services, make purchases, and eventually (when done right) establish long-lasting brand loyalties. The customer experience can range from split-second micro-moments to self-sustaining long-term behavioral interdependence that resonates deep inside the customer psyche. Different from traditional print or TV advertising, digital ads require interaction and encourage consumers to visit a separate media environment all together. Display banners can increase brand recall because they can be seen by consumers more frequently than other mediums. In order to best serve our content, it is our goal to build contextually compelling messages that can be expressed concisely and in a clear, fun and engaging ways that are appropriate to your channel of choice.

Improved efficiencies resulting from modern advertising networks, bid management systems, and a slew of new interactive components breathe new life into display banners. Although display banners are nothing new, they contributed to about a fifth of last year’s $50 billion U.S. online ad revenue according to iab’s latest data. It also remains flexible to different marketing models while pushing us to balance commerce and creativity when striving to be relevant, credible, and offer a stronger value proposition than ever before. The race to reach the right audience, at the right time, using the right advertisement means that consumer insights, testing, and optimization have to integrate seamlessly into a viable campaign strategy. Being diligent will maximize available ad inventory, measure accurate campaign results, help implement feedback, and contribute to documentation of best practices with every cycle.

We have come a long way from the days of Adobe Flash banners, but with every iteration of the web browser, the advent of mobile devices, and the ever-growing appetite for content, display banners have been redefined as a valuable portal to connect with consumers’ desires. It only took a few years to reveal Flash player’s limitations, many of which lead to Google Chrome automatically pausing Flash ads, a lack of mobile support on iPhones, and too many security vulnerabilities that now render this technology close to obsolete. In its place more sophisticated tools like HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript have emerged opening up greater creative opportunities to connect with consumers and provide memorable experiences that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Popular display ad templates are readily available for creating In-Page, Takeover, Expanding, V-Paid mini website banners, In-App ads, and Dynamic creative ads, to name a few. Still, the display banner remains a solid option for reaching consumers in eye-catching and personalized ways. Let’s remember that, “We understand our customers because we are our customers”, as we purposefully develop the next wave of creative innovations.

The Future of Display Advertising

In many ways the future is already here with advancements like Interactive and 360 video, where consumers can blend interaction and linear storytelling, allowing viewers to manipulate narrative outcomes, explore alternative plots, and interact with virtual characters enhancing the user experience. Borrowing from gaming and UX/UI design- Google, Apple, and other tech companies are competing to gain a foothold in an unprecedented frontier that combines cyberspace with our everyday life. The introduction of Augmented Reality (AR) brings the ability to have direct or indirect interaction with virtual elements, like 3d graphics, digital sound, video, or GPS data. Taking it a step further, Facebook has recently paid $2 billion to acquire Oculus Rift, a Virtual Reality technology company in hopes of adding immersive computer simulated reality to its popular social network. VR technology tricks the human vestibular system by creating artificial experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, and smell.

How will all of this affect the display banner in the next 20 years may still be hard to predict, but we know that Design, Content, and Creativity will remain at the core of this little tool whose future has never looked brighter!

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