Digital Media – Display Advertising Dilemma

  • Posted by Steve Goldberg
  • |
  • June 9, 2013

As a digital ad sales recruiters, we place media sellers in positions to sell the many shapes, sizes and forms of advertising…display, mobile, video, search, social media, real time bidding (RTB)…on down the line.   Display is a primary vehicle for advertising, but digital display ads are fast becoming almost invisible to the eye, and are therefore underperforming (per DoubleClick, the average click-through rate of display ads is 0.1%; 8% of Internet users account for 85% of clicks on display ads).  As innovation and Darwin would require, other avenues to attract audience attention come to the forefront.

Current alternatives to standard display advertising are suggested by Janelle Vreeland of, in the form of in-app ads, shaking up the positioning of display ads, and sponsored content (see three alternatives).

One of the hot trends currently is “native advertising”, many times confused with sponsored content and content marketing.  The distinction between the terms is well outlined by John Denny, currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital. To summarize…

  • Native advertising is by definition an ad format that only exists on one site or platform – like a Facebook Sponsored Story unit appears only on Facebook, and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets only show up in a Twitter stream.
  • Sponsored Content exists when a brand pays a publisher to have its name and/or message associated with a particular story (you’ll see phrases like “brought to you by,” “presented by,” or “sponsored by”). This is not content produced by the brand. The marketer is given a broad topic area that it can choose to associate its brand with.
  • Content marketing refers to a whole universe of Marketing strategies and tactics far beyond just the narrow practices people are using it to describe.

But a rose by any other name….  Perspectives about sponsored content (which I’m sure bleed into perspectives on native advertising) are turning as well.  People are not thrilled about being “tricked” into reading something they think is part of the article, only to realize that a company has sponsored the content (click to see this “funny because it is true” piece from the Onion).

Reconciling this “display advertising dilemma” with other facts is a bit challenging.  Ecommerce companies have entered the digital advertising business, with Amazon’s U.S. ad revenues expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2015 according toeMarketer (the bulk of Amazon’s ad revenue comes from ads placed in or near search results, which appear when site visitors search for products).

In addition, challenging Vreeland’s assertion suggesting that regardless of their animation, color or subject matter, we are becoming blind to display ads, online video globally seems to be trumping TV in engagement (according to a survey, 73% of respondents said online video spend had increased over the last 12 months).

We don’t suppose to know the future of digital advertising, but looking from the perspective of Susan Wojcicki’s (Google’s SVP Advertising) is not a bad place to start.  Wojcicki sees five core ideas shaping the future of digital advertising:  Choice, Control, Charm, Connected, and Calibration.  For her full explanation, click here to view her article from AdTech in San Francisco, April 4, 2013.