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Pathmatics Blog
Ad Intelligence 101 |


What Are Display Ads? Why They Work and How to Start

January 11 2018 by Jordan Kramer

Even traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have accepted that consumers take to the internet before making a purchase. 

Curious to see if a competitor has a better price? Google it. Looking for a similar product in a different color? Once again, Google has the answer.

It’s no wonder that text ads are a staple in any marketing strategy. In fact, it’s critical to make your brand available when consumers are searching for it. 

If you need a quick refresher on text ads, below is a sample ad that appears when searching for “athletic wear.”


While text ads are necessary, you can take your advertising strategy to the next level with display advertising.   

Display ads are the branded banners and sidebar placements you see on almost every website. Below is a sample display ad currently running on Amazon.


Display ads are more visually appealing than text ads, and appear when and where your buyer is already reading or shopping. Interested? Read on for more information on why display ads work and a few best practices to get you started. 

What Are Display Ads and Why Do They Work?

Thanks to targeting, brands place display ads on select sites to target niche readership and impressions. For example, Microsoft features display ads on BestBuy.com, a leading consumer electronics corporation (and an obvious choice for a software and electronics company). 

Other times, the targeted website might not be directly related to a brand’s product. Microsoft also advertises (via display) on ESPN. The sports station obviously doesn’t cater direct to electronics, but Microsoft sees value in targeting this specific audience. ESPN site visitors might not necessarily be searching for a Microsoft product, but when they do, the brand will likely be top of mind. 

Because display ads include a logo and branded visuals, they are critical to advancing brand recognition and awareness in the marketplace. Plus, with more real estate than text ads, you can better communicate a value proposition or call to action.

Get Started with Display: 4 Best Practices

Ready to grow your advertising ROI with display ads? Below are four best practices to work into your unique strategy. 

1. Stay consistent with brand standards.

One of the main benefits of display advertising is elevated brand visibility. So, ensure your ad stays true to brand standards—for both design and messaging. Be familiar and recognizable with a trademark color, tagline, or aesthetic.  Below is a prime example from T-Mobile. The wireless network operator sticks to its signature pink in nearly every display ad (and the logo for good measure).


2. Target purposefully.

While there are various methods of advertising, direct buys have far exceeded other avenues year to date. In fact, according to Pathmatics, direct buys make up 82% of all spend share. That’s followed by indirect purchases through ad networks, including Google Adx + Adsense (8%) and Amazon (2%). 

Regardless if you’re purchasing ads directly or indirectly, be strategic about your audience selection. If buying directly, do you homework on the third party site’s readership and profile its audience. Does it mirror (or resemble) your target buyer?

Also, do some digging to identify other brands advertising on that site. Will your competitor’s ad potentially appear next to yours? And if so, does your messaging measure up?

3. Include an intriguing, relevant CTA. 

Display ad CTAs can be a bit trickier than text ad CTAs. Since consumers aren’t necessarily searching for a product or service, brands walk the line between being intrusive and helpful. 

Know your buyer and develop an offer they can’t resist. This could include offers at the top of the funnel, like gated premium content and entertaining quizzes or surveys. The example ad below from Google attracts visitors with an educational offer, “Stay in the know.” Or, test out a harder CTA, like a free trial, free consultation offering or a call to purchase. 

Ultimately, determine your end goals and craft an enticing CTA based on that metric.


4. Deploy retargeting.   

Have you ever searched for a product, only to see a display ad for that commodity the very next day? Yep, you’ve been retargeted.

Retargeting serves up ads based on a visitor’s behavioral history online. With retargeting, you can serve up ads to consumers who have already shown interest in your website. According to AdRoll, “Generally, 2% of shoppers convert on the first visit to an online store. Retargeting brings back the other 98%.”

If you’re looking to experiment with retargeting, we suggest checking out AdRoll, Google AdWords Remarketing, ReTargeter or Perfect Audience.  

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About Author
Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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