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12/05/2008 Display Ads and Search

Ad network Specific Media just released a study showing the impact display advertising has on search. Over a 12-month period, Specific Media was able to show that display advertising had a positive effect on both paid and organic search, increasing search activity by an average of 155% (with variations in different categories).

Apparently Specific Media had by comScore back the data. Otherwise it might look like the study was too self-serving. After all, Specific Media makes its money selling display advertising.

We’ve been seeing smaller studies like this over the years. As digital marketers we continually bring this up when clients ask us for “industry standards.” But this is the first time the numbers are so clear for both PPC and SEO.

The study doesn’t show, however, how the display ads themselves performed when supported by paid search campaigns. Now that would be great data to have.

While the results seem clear, the message to CMOs is not. In fact the study seems to imply that the best way to measure display advertising is through awareness rather than through its own results. It acts indirectly and not directly. Yet a lot of the criticism about display advertising comes from its lack of direct, measurable impact.

What’s more, we see the same types of arguments made on behalf of Television advertising. It makes sense, then, to push for integrated campaigns that work together to make the sum of marketing greater than its parts. For digital marketers we have to find a way to make this argument to our clients in a way they can understand.

On the other hand, it seems like a total cop out for display ads. I’ve said it before, if agencies can only make crappy banners that can’t work on their own and only increase awareness, then clients need to find someone who can make banners work they way they should.


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