Why Learnings From The ‘90s Banner Ad Still Apply Today
The technology behind display advertising remains a key underpinning of what advertisers are seeking today, explains columnist James Green.
Mobile, wearables, interactive TV and other sexy visions of the future are dominating industry headlines right now. However, if a headline includes the word “banner,” it’s typically adjacent to something along the lines of “dead, death or dying.”
No one pays attention to display advertising — the euphemism we use to make the banner ad more appealing. It’s considered a cheap, unremarkable thing of the past. But the technology we use to power display has, in fact, become the engine that powers the most interesting aspects of advertising today.
Most advertising and marketing technology companies don’t think of the creative as a constraint. Most important are the individual we’re reaching and the data available to choose what to show someone where and when.
Display advertising now encompasses any ad that can be targeted to an individual. It’s all about the data and whether the individual can be targeted in this channel. We no longer need to rely solely on the invented “personas” or standard audience segments (e.g., stay-at-home mom, single millennial) based on general assumptions or standalone behavioral data.
Now, we can get much more granular and reach people who are actually in-market to buy, regardless of whether they fit within a marketer’s standard persona. As data trends emerge and consumers’ habits change, so will the implications surrounding display advertising.
Fractured Media Will Make For New Types Of Ads
As more and more types of media are brought within the digital buying arms and the number of people clicking on ads continues to dwindle, new ad formats that look less like advertising are continually invented. At its heart, this is no different than the “advertorial” found in magazines of yesteryear.
Native formats and other inventive ad styles are popping up, such as new formats from Facebook and Pinterest and even the recent Vessel 5-second video ad (introduced by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar). Expect this to become more and more evident over time, because the creation of these highly visual ad formats is becoming increasingly automated.
Eventually, we’ll see advertisers give one set of creative that can turn into hundreds — or even thousands — of different ad formats. But these ads are still “display advertising.”
Video Is Increasingly Appealing To Consumers
A recent Business Insider report highlighted what advertisers have known for years: Video is quickly replacing static display advertising. The report noted that video will account for 41% of total desktop display-related spending in 2020. In-stream video ads that play at the start, during and after video content also perform better than standard display units, which is reflected in the format’s high prices.
Video has been slower to adopt as marketers face hurdles like difficulty of production, time, effort and expense. Over time, we are going to see a lot more options for integrating video into display advertising both as a branding and direct response tool.
YouTube recently introduced a new feature making it easier for people to shop directly from videos, and companies like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are finding ways to evolve display into an engagement and branding vehicle.
But again, video advertising is targeted using the same tools as display. And in the end, the decision about which creative to show someone, video or otherwise, will be made based on data that shows where he or she is in the purchase funnel.
Consumers Are Looking For More Unified, Customized Ads
More than ever, consumers are multi-screening, using different devices to research, engage with and purchase products from brands. While static ads may have worked a few years back, today’s consumers have matured right along with display advertising.
Many marketers have taken onboard dynamic creative tools that allow them to create truly customized experiences for their entire consumer base. Pieces of the display ad — including the headline, message, image, call-to-action, etc. — can shift based on specific audience attributes, which is especially helpful for brands that have a variety of products and offerings.
The marriage of first- and third-party data is also helping marketers dip into a bigger data pool to deliver customized experiences, including both on and offline. In a report by MyBuys, three out of four shoppers are willing to allow retailers to use in-store purchase data for personalization purposes.
The report also shows that consumers are frustrated when marketing messages do not take into account their past browsing behaviors. In fact, 53% of shoppers surveyed said they would purchase more from retailers that suggest products based on their browsing behaviors.
Media Departments Are Being Consolidated
Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker pointed to some new facts showing incredible growth in mobile Internet usage, up 23% since 2014, and now growing at a faster rate than the Internet in general, which grew 8% since last year.
As more and more consumers are using mobile, advertisers have flocked to digital ad formats focused on “mobile-first” users. With that came the collapse of the mobile department within agencies under an overall digital umbrella.
Today, we’re also seeing video departments fold under the digital umbrella. And as TV becomes extremely targetable (forget the microscopic experiments that exist today) it, too, will be bought by the same group of people. Soon, we’ll see digital media buying groups buying any data-driven media.
Funny enough, when the banner ad was created back in the 1990s, the term du jour was “one-to-one advertising.” This continues to be what all advertisers are seeking today, but it’s only now becoming possible.