The Soda Academy
"The death of Flash, the rise of mobile, slow loading pages, ad blocking, and programmatic exchanges have all changed the game."
"The ads of today must consider how dynamic creative (powered by data) can tell a smarter, more targeted and ultimately more useful story to the consumer."

David Chang, Fancy Pants Group

Making Sense of Display Advertising

Making Sense of Display Advertising

Let’s face it. Nobody likes banner ads. They are the red-headed stepchild of the digital advertising world. In recent years, there have been serious shifts in technology and user behavior. The death of Flash, the rise of mobile, slow loading pages, ad blocking, and programmatic exchanges have all changed the game. When you stop and look around, it’s a confusing mess. However, where there’s chaos, new opportunities arise to innovate.

Here are some major factors that are transforming display advertising today.

Mobile Behavior Flash ads were about extravagant animations, expanding rich media, and finding clever ways to entice clicks. But with mobile, the screens are small, users scroll through content quickly, and there’s minimal time to catch their attention. Getting them to interact with your brand’s content is an even taller order.

The Growth of Programmatic When you look at the existing landscape, it makes all the sense in the world that ad inventory transactions should be powered by machines and algorithms. And, clearly, programmatic advertising is growing at a rapid pace. However, most creative executions are not living up to the advantages of programmatic capabilities. These exchanges are littered with unimaginative ads, singular messaging, and static images that aren’t optimized for mobile.

Ad Blocking is on the Rise With the release of iOS 9, mobile ad blocking is now possible and used by an increasing number of people. Why? Because most ads suck! Pages take too long to load, and the technology now exists to suppress these terrible ads. Ad blocking’s very existence is a testament to how bad it’s gotten and how bad the user experience with display advertising has become.  

What can brands and agencies do to stand apart and get the most out of their display dollars? The good news is that there’s an opportunity to approach creative concepts in more strategic ways than ever before. Here are some suggestions …

Don’t Build Sucky Ads Understand the context of the ad. Mobile ads that are simply scaled-down resizes of desktop designs are not likely to be effective. Instead, consider how it will be viewed and how user behavior changes across platforms. Build beautifully designed, elegant, efficient and fast loading ads that work across all platforms and devices.

Get to the Point Nobody is going to read your elaborate 15-second animation no matter how eye catching it is or how engaging the copy. Get to the point, but do so elegantly so the user can absorb your message in an instant. Use animation to capture the user’s attention, but avoid being gratuitous.

Invest in Quality Brands that believe in the quality of their product should invest in developing ads that are similarly well crafted. While there are exceptions, the overall quality of display advertising seems to have gotten considerably worse as of late. Many in the industry simply don’t care about how that mediocrity positions the brand in the eye of the consumer. It always pains me to see a high-end brand that has released a shoddy execution into the world.

Understand Data Signals With so many data insights available, advertisers have the ability to better understand their audience and to connect with consumers more strategically. Know what data is available and how you might leverage that data to tell a more effective story to the user. How might brand marketers tailor their story if the user has been on that brand’s website previously? How might they craft the messaging if they’re intersecting a user who is researching a competitive brand? Data is the new secret weapon and should be an integral part of the creative arsenal.

Reach the Right Audience at the Right Time Dynamic Content Optimization (aka DCO) has been around for many years. But now more than ever, marketers can utilize dynamic capabilities to tell a story and serve the proper creative and messaging to the right user. The ads of yesterday were built and served within the context of a static media buy. But with programmatic and DCO capabilities, the ads of today must consider how dynamic creative (powered by data and delivered via programmatic media buys) can tell a smarter, more targeted and ultimately more useful story to the consumer.

Like it or not, the banner isn’t going to pack up and disappear any time soon. The landscape is continuing to evolve. Users are getting smarter and savvier than ever before. However, the status quo isn’t working when it comes to display advertising. We need to fight mediocrity and do our part to push this facet of the digital marketing industry forward. The overall purpose should be to deliver a better ad experience and provide actual value for the consumer.

About the author:

Since joining Fancy Pants Group in 2011, David has helped the company transform from a production shop into a full-service creative digital studio. He is constantly looking for ways to drive innovation and to improve the craftsmanship of Fancy Pants’ digital executions. His attention to detail and his creative approach to technology are distinguishing characteristics of his work in the digital marketing arena. David has worked with a diverse range of clients, including Microsoft, Royal Caribbean and Stride Gum. He previously served as Director of Technology at JWT.

Illustration by Taiwan-based illustrator, Kuocheng Liao