Display Ads aren’t dead! How to succeed with your display campaigns.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

In the world of marketing you will always hear someone saying this ‘technique’ is dead whether it’s SEO, Display Advertising, Content etc. A certain saying comes to mind; ‘If I had a pound for every time I heard….”

But I cringe when I hear or read these sensationalist headlines, my initial standpoint is they are probably not doing it right or using it for the wrong campaign. There are lots of people out there who are masters at specific marketing techniques and change with the times which is why they are so good.

The reason I am writing this article is to show how display advertising or banner advertising is still a great advertising technique. There are some very creative campaigns out there and it can be a very profitable. I will try to share what we have found to be useful in the world of display advertising.


Like all online marketing you have challenges which you need to overcome. Below is a list of common issues with display ad campaigns. These are not big problems and are easy to fix if you know how.

Low Click Through Rates

One issue I often hear referred to is that ads receive a low click through rate. But this all depends on who or what you are targeting, the ad quality and offering. If you don’t get these three things right you will be struggling to get ad clicks. And don’t forget its more than the quantity of clicks. A load of clicks from the wrong audience is just as bad as no clicks at all.

People Don’t Hang Around

Because you are grabbing the attention of people that aren’t looking for your service, product or offer at that point in time they aren’t going to hang around on your site looking for information. You need to get the right information across to the user as quickly as possible in an easily digestible bite size chunk.

Lower Conversion Rates

You might not get the same conversion rate as some inbound marketing methods but this doesn’t mean you will necessarily have a higher cost per conversion which is the ultimate benchmark. Be certain you make it easy for the user to convert. Keeping ad click cost down but still relevant is key.

Targeting the Right People

Getting this spot on requires thorough research and testing but when you do it really makes the difference with conversion rates & click through rates.


The first stage should be to determine your objectives, what do you want to achieve?

I have worked on a variety of campaigns all with different objectives. Some want to harvest names, email, phone numbers. Others want to get people subscribing or signing up for a free trial. Others are directly selling low & high value products.

All of these can work but you need to have the overall objective to focus on throughout the campaign and make sure every decision you make is benefiting the objective.

Offering & Hook

Next is how to make people complete your objective. [Your offering & hook needs to be as compelling and easy to complete as possible.]

If you are offering a free trial then this is your hook but if you want to gather contact information you have to offer something and give value to the user. This could be a white paper, competition, consultation, audit, or some small product offering that doesn’t cost you much.

If you’re selling a product directly then maybe you can provide extras that are included with every order. The more value you can give the user the more likely they will complete your objectives.


How do you sell your offering? How do you get people to click on your ads? This is all down to the messaging which is portrayed through imagery and copy. I like to create intrigue with the ad and then provide the full information once they have clicked through to [a landing page]. Try to get an emotional response, focus on the why rather than the what and how. You can do this with questions e.g. “find out why…..” or “do you know…” Other ways include using statistics, thought provoking facts, bold statements, humor.

I find that tapping into someones emotion gets more engagement than just offering something cheaper or better.


There are a variety of different ad sizes to look at. But to get a good coverage I would suggest using the 4 most popular ads; medium rectangle 300×250, large rectangle 336×280, leaderboard 728×90, wide skyscraper 160×600 as a starting point. Others that you should consider are mobile leaderboard 320×50 and half page 300×600.

These ad sizes can be standard jpgs, animated gifs, videos and more but I am not going

into too much detail. All these different techniques can increase your click through rates but not all sites will support them.

Another important point with the ads is say you have 4 different sizes you’re going to us

e but you might have different copy and imagery you would like to test. If so you should always have a theme and scent trail running throughout, a user might see your ad multiple times before clicking on it so it’s important the user can see the ads are all part of the same brand or campaign otherwise you might be losing clicks.

Landing Page

Having a custom landing page is really important to your campaign. [It’s not like SEO or web search PPC where people are directly searching for your product, therefore you only have a short timespan where they are willing to stay on your page so getting across the right information quickly is important.] The page needs to be perfectly crafted for your audience and offering. Below are some of the main elements you need to consider for your landing page.

Scent Trail

It’s very important that when a user clicks on your ad the landing page doesn’t seem alien. The scent trail must be maintained, so the copy, logos, imagery and colours must mirror the ad. If you have different imagery on each ad then consider having copies of the landing page with a variety of image options.


Make sure your USPs are jumping out the page, the user has already expressed interest in your offering and now you need to seal the deal. Use promos, bullet points, headings, icons and imagery to highlight those extra offerings.

Keep it Simple and Clear

Don’t have large paragraphs of text and use well crafted headings. People often want to skim and pick the most important bits to read in more detail.

Don’t Distract

Linking to the rest of your sites navigation can distract a user and take them on a path you don’t want them to go. You can still link to your main site but don’t make it a focus and have the link load in a new window or tab.

Build Trust

Remember these people haven’t looked for you so they will find it hard to trust you. Provide physical address and contact information.

Make it Easy

Keep form fields to a minimum and don’t take them on complicated user journeys. Try to keep all CTAs and information on a single page. if you find the page getting too long or end up building multiple pages, cut it right down.

You don’t want to frustrate the user. [Make it as quick and easy as possible for the user to complete the objective.] If you’re selling high value products let the user reserve the product and get someone to phone them up to take payment and complete the order.

Targeting The Right Audience

Getting your ads in the right places requires thorough research and testing. I mainly use Google Adwords because it gives me a lot of customisation and ability to test. But you can also look at buying direct from a website through a service or contacting them.

Google Adwords is useful due to the ability to target specific content through keywords and interests rather than picking particular domains and specific pages. When you target a whole domain there might be a number of pages that might not be that relevant for your ads to appear on and increase cost per click or lower the value of a

n impression. If I selected a specific keyword my ads will appear next to relevant content and I can really drive the cost per click or impression down whilst still appearing in relevant places.

The reason the cost can go down is I don’t have to compete against the really competitive positions on popular domains and I get higher click through rates because of relevance so I will get shown more often.

There is a lot you can go into with the target audience and I would recommend researching it but the main aim is to get the cost per click or impression right down but increasing the relevance of your ad position. Testing is so important because you will rarely get it perfect first time.

A/B Testing

Testing is key to making the most out of your display ad campaign. You can use A/B testing to try out different versions of your landing page but make sure you only test small elements at a time so you can see why one is better than the other, there are lots of great articles on A/B testing and I would recommend reading them.

Other tests are the target audience & different ads but make sure you test small elements and try to fully understand what you are testing and the results, you can waste money and time if you don’t.


I have given you a general overview of how we look at display advertising but what you do can differ greatly depending on your offering and for each industry. The main point is try to really understand your targets, objectives and test everything. I really enjoy working on display ad campaigns and love seeing creative projects others are working on and running, so go out be creative, strategic and get the results you want.

If you have any further questions or would like to share some interesting campaigns please contact me on Twitter.