Display advertising – types, formats and challenges, explained


Display advertising – types, formats and challenges, explained

Display advertising has developed dynamically since the 1990s, using more and more shapes. How to effectively use this advertising form in the 21st century?

The graphic advertising industry is rising to new heights, and current trends prove that it’s the most effective way to present a brand or business idea. In the era of ever-increasing growing competition on the Internet, effective communication is the key to building a bond between consumers and the brand. Display advertising can be the strongest weapon in this field. 

People are spending more and more time online and are more responsive to visual content than a few years back. Advertisers are developing newer strategies in terms of approach and connection with their customer base, and marketers are improving their methods of reaching their target audience.

Display advertising is one of the most effective ways to increase awareness of a brand, product or service. How to successfully use them to promote products and services?

What is display advertising?

Digital display advertising is an outbound graphic ad format where images or banners are targeting a predefined audience. It’s a concept that an advertiser sends them a message about their products or services on websites, social media platforms and mobile applications.

It can be visible regardless of whether an internet user is operating on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. After clicking on such an advertisement, the user is taken to the advertiser's landing page.

Origins and evolution of display advertising 

This type of advertising was created in the 1990s, when it became a technical possibility to display graphic advertisements on the Internet.

The first such graphic appeared on the Internet in 1994, promoting the AT&T company in the form of a banner ad. It was a small rectangle that was placed on the HotWired website. Apparently, people went crazy about it – about 44% of people who saw it actually clicked on it.

Since then, display ads have come a long way and have developed into specialised types, including: 

  • Traditional graphic advertisements – these consist of images in a horizontal, square or “skyscraper” orientation; they are mainly based on images with text and are placed on websites. 
  • Responsive display ads – their characteristic feature is that it is enough to type the text we want, company logo and images, and the advertising network will optimise the message itself, create the ad and display it in the available location. 

Over the years, not only has the appearance of image ads changed, but a frequency with which users view them has increased. It is also, alongside email marketing, one of the oldest forms of internet marketing. Although display campaigns are expensive, companies are still investing in them. They play an important role mainly in the sale of B2C products, e.g. in the e-commerce industry

Popular display ad formats 

  • static – a single, unmowing image usually accompanied by text; 
  • animated – uses 5–10 seconds of looping movie or GIF; 
  • interactive – requires viewer’s engagement, such as filling out a survey, playing a short game or entering personal information; 
  • video – as the name suggests, these ads use self-contained videos, up to 30 seconds long, to create a message; 
  • floating – visible in the same place despite scrolling the page; 
  • expanding – initially these are small and get bigger and bigger when the user interacts with them, such as clicking or scrolling over them with the mouse cursor. 

Display advertising forms 

Display advertising takes many forms on the Internet. The oldest, however still popular are: 

  • banners (usually horizontal, 468x60 pixels) – usually located at the top of the website; 
  • billboards (also: mega banner, super banner) – these take on a slightly more extensive form than the banner; 
  • skyscrapers – a type of vertical banner on the side of the page; 
  • buttons – ads of small format (approx. 120x60 pixels), a kind of advertising "button"; 
  • boxes – usually a small, square form of advertising in the middle of the text. 

Newer forms of display advertising on the Internet include:

  1. pop-up — in the form of pop-up windows covering the website;
  2. pop-under — of a similar type, but showing under a displayed page, visible only after closing it;
  3. too layer (floating ad) — most often animated, with sound, moving "over" the page on the so-called layer, that is, covering the right side;
  4. expanding — changes its size and affects the appearance of the website;
  5. wallpaper (watermark) — emitted in the background of a page as if it were its bottom layer;
  6. interstitial — appears on the entire screen page before an actual site is displayed;
  7. superstitial — interstitial type, but most often in the form of an animation or video.

Display network: where and who will see display ads 

Display ads can reach recipients with content on multiple platforms, the number of which is gradually increasing. The most prominent ad networks include: 

  • Google Display Network 
  • Facebook Audience Network 
  • Twitter Audience Platform 

The vast majority of display advertising runs on the Google Display Network. The network brings together over 2 million websites worldwide — smaller and more significant, popular and niche, which means their space for potential advertising is enormous. In Poland, this network consists of over 40,000 of the most important websites, including Onet, Gazeta.pl, WP and Interia. Google is also Gmail and YouTube.

When using Google Display Network, it's worth knowing about display ad specifications. The guidelines also apply to the video formats of Google ads on mobile phones and computers. The format determines where it will be displayed. Google also provides various tools to adjust the display of an advertiser ads to a specific target group. When creating a campaign based on these types of ads, it is possible to specify targeting, i.e. to assume to whom it will be displayed.

The types of targeting are: 

  • geographical — the reached target group depends on a specific location; 
  • contextual — ads are tailored to the given keywords and the subject of a website; 
  • thematic — advertisements get displayed on websites with a specific specialisation; 
  • “directional” — ads are displaying on specifically selected target sites (individual choice possible). 

Advantages and disadvantages of display advertising 

Although display advertising is a popular solution and willingly used in online marketing, it has both pros and cons. 

Pros of display ads:

  • the ability to define a target audience; 
  • creates strong interaction with the client; 
  • ads are easily noticeable, e.g. through large format and creative graphic solutions such as photos, animations or videos; 
  • engages the user – image ad formats allow for commenting, liking or sharing; 
  • significantly improves brand awareness – vital for image and sales campaigns of specific brands or products; 
  • increases product considerations and creates purchase intentions; 
  • effective in the e-commerce industry; 
  • cost-effective, e.g. compared to traditional advertising formats, TV, radio, printing, the digital display is much more economical. 

Cons of display ads:

  • interference in the activities of Internet users; 
  • invasiveness – the Internet users fight it through ad blocker programs (they eliminate displaying some ads); 
  • they cause the so-called banner blindness – it's hard for users to break through their mix; it also difficult to get the ad to be seen by those to whom it is directed to and at the right time. 

Blocking display ads: a challenge for advertisers 

The term “banner blindness” was coined in 1998 after a study found that many users tend to skip banner-like information when scrolling through a website. After seeing thousands of banner ads, they even learned to ignore them and focus their attention on a page's content.

Current statistics show that the average US user sees approximately 63 image ads per day. It is overwhelming and possibly the reason why around 380 million people use adblock software on their mobile browsers and 236 million on desktop computers. Some of their decisions to use it include:

  • malware threat; 
  • interruptions in Internet usage; 
  • slow website loading time; 
  • too many ads on too many websites;
  • tracking by unknown sites. 

If someone is looking for information on a website but can’t access it because of advertising, they definitely won't like a brand it promotes. As ad blockers increase, content in the form of less intrusive information can help retain your customer base. 

Making display advertising more effective with AI

As already mentioned, an advantage of display advertising is the ability to reach the target group and increase brand, product or service awareness. Technologies based on artificial intelligence are what you need to improve this process. Their use can serve to: 

  • better targeting thanks to understanding the needs and preferences of recipients; 
  • recommendation of products that customers are looking for or need at the moment; 
  • reaching new audiences through look-a-like audience analysis systems. 

The goal of advertising network companies should be to increase the effectiveness of advertisements displayed on the Internet. Therefore, it is crucial to work on increasingly advanced solutions based on data analysis and machine learning models. Thanks to AI software, it is possible to obtain information in real-time, speeding up the process of reaching the target group.

Display advertising — tailor-made software

In WESBENSA, we create AI-based solutions for automating and improving investments in display advertising. Is your company looking for this kind of software? Check our offer and contact us if you have any questions.

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