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06/21/2011 Display Advertising: Working or Not?

A recent study by C3 Metrics reported that online display advertising accounted for 44% of advertisers’ transactions in Q1 2011. C3 was apparently able to study some 50,000 online transactions and found that display ads drove the initial awareness of the brand.

When you add that on top of the latest eMarketer report that the U.S. display market will increase by 24.5% this year to $12.3 billion, you’d have to think that display advertising has finally come of age, right?

Not if you read what most of the experts say. Or if you talk with anyone you know who surfs online. Here are a couple of the “nicer” critiques from Rob Gatto of Pointroll and Mitch Joel of Twist Image. When creatives talk about display, it gets uglier.

When was the last time anyone asked you “Did you see that banner ad today on the New York Times.com?” If they ever did, it was probably when Apple was rolling out its Mac vs. PC ad online. Otherwise, no one is talking about, albeit remembering most online ads. That’s because most online ads lack the creative juices imbued in other ads, like print or TV.

That’s too bad, because there’s lots of room for creativity here once you start looking at this format differently.

Most people aren’t. Here are a few examples of today’s display ads from some of the leading sites.


LA Times.com
Washington Post
My Favorites - Burlington Free Press
Now, these are just ads I found on the home pages today. Most are pretty bad. The LL Bean one at least makes me want to look at it. It wasn't until I visited YouTube that I saw an ad that made me want to watch and interact with it.


Now maybe some of you will say I'm only seeing these lousy ads because I'm being retargeted to (that's when advertisers cookie your browser when you visit their site. Afterwards their ads follow you around the Web like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe). That's not the case, though. I am being retargeted, mostly by companies I'm already a customer of and have already made the one purchase I'm going to make from them.

What do you think? Are these good ads or bad ads? Or is the only way to judge them based on clicks or conversions? I think it's both creativity and results, not one or the other.

As I’ve noted before, there aren’t a lot of sites promoting great banner creative. Even on my favorite, Banner Blog in Australia, I’ve noticed much lower quality and creativity than I’ve seen in the past.

The data shows display works better now. Maybe it does. But the format and content still need a lot of work.



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