Display Advertising in Digital Marketing


Scott D. Clary
Scott D. Clary
10 min readJun 18, 2024


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The Renaissance of Display Advertising

If I asked you about the sexiest corner of the marketing world, display ads probably wouldn’t be your first answer.

We’re drawn to the flash of social media, the promise of SEO, the allure of virality.

But let me tell you, display advertising is experiencing a renaissance.

It’s like that classic car you overlooked in the garage — dust it off, tune it up, and you’ve got a powerhouse machine.

Now, I’m not talking about those clunky banner ads from the 90s that scream “CLICK ME!” in neon colors.

Today’s display ads are sophisticated, targeted, and measurable.

They’re not just about impressions, they’re about driving real business results.

And for the savvy entrepreneur, they offer a treasure trove of untapped potential.

Why the resurgence?

  • Better targeting: We can now reach our ideal customers with laser precision, thanks to data-driven insights and advanced algorithms.
  • Improved formats: Native ads blend seamlessly into content, while programmatic buying automates the process.
  • Increased measurability: We can track clicks, conversions, and ROI with granular detail.

In this newsletter, we’re going to dive deep into the world of display advertising.

We’ll explore the different types of ads, the strategies that work, and the mistakes to avoid.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a display newbie, there’s something here for everyone.

Research Tools:

  • eMarketer: Provides industry reports, trends, and forecasts on digital advertising.
  • IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau): Offers research, resources, and education on the latest developments in display advertising.
  • Google Trends: Track the popularity and interest in specific keywords and topics related to display advertising.

Demystifying Display Ads: Banners, Natives, and Programmatic

Let’s break down the key players in the display advertising game:

  • Banner ads: The OGs of display. Still relevant, but they need to be done right (think eye-catching visuals, compelling copy, and clear CTAs).
  • Native ads: The chameleons of the ad world. They blend in with the surrounding content, making them less intrusive and more engaging.
  • Programmatic buying: The automation engine. It uses algorithms to buy and place ads in real-time, optimizing for performance and efficiency.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these terms.

Each type of ad has its own nuances, strengths, and weaknesses.

Banner ads might be great for building brand awareness, while native ads excel at driving conversions.

Programmatic buying can save you time and money, but it requires a solid understanding of the technology.

Pro tip: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Experiment with different ad formats and find what works best for your business.

Display Ad Tools:

Ad Creation:

  • Canva: User-friendly graphic design tool for creating banner ads.
  • Google Web Designer: Free tool for creating HTML5 ads for the Google Display Network.
  • Outbrain/Taboola: Platforms for creating and distributing native ads.

Programmatic Buying:

  • Google Display & Video 360 (DV360): Google’s demand-side platform (DSP) for programmatic buying.
  • The Trade Desk: Another popular DSP with advanced features and integrations.
  • Adobe Advertising Cloud: A comprehensive suite of advertising tools, including a DSP and dynamic creative optimization (DCO).

The Display Ad Playbook: Strategies for Success

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.

How do you actually make display advertising work for you?

  • Start with a clear goal: What do you want to achieve? More website traffic? Leads? Sales?
  • Know your audience: Who are you trying to reach? What are their interests, pain points, and motivations?
  • Craft compelling creatives: Your ads need to grab attention and inspire action.
  • Target like a pro: Use data to reach the right people at the right time.
  • Optimize relentlessly: Track your results and make adjustments as needed.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are countless tactics and techniques you can use to get the most out of your display ads.

The key is to be strategic, creative, and data-driven.

Audience Research Tools:

  • Google Analytics: Gather demographic and behavioral data about your website visitors.
  • Facebook Audience Insights: Learn more about your target audience on Facebook.
  • Semrush: Conduct keyword research and competitor analysis to understand your audience’s interests and search behavior.

The Display Ad Do’s and Don’ts

Now we’ve covered the basics, just a quick reminder of best practices when you start to dabble in Display Ads before we start to jump into some more advanced topics.


  • Use high-quality images and videos.
  • Write clear, concise copy.
  • Include a strong call to action.
  • Test different ad formats and placements.
  • Track your results and optimize accordingly.


  • Use misleading or deceptive tactics.
  • Bombard your audience with too many ads.
  • Ignore the data.
  • Give up too soon.

Display advertisin takes time, effort, and patience to see results.

But if you’re willing to put in the work, the rewards can be substantial.

A/B Testing Tools:

  • Google Optimize: Free tool for A/B testing different variations of your website and ads.
  • Optimizely: More advanced A/B testing platform with additional features.
  • VWO: Another comprehensive A/B testing and experimentation platform.

Advanced Display Advertising: The Entrepreneur’s Edge

Alright, let’s level up.

If you’re an advanced entrepreneur, you’re not just looking to dip your toes in the display ad pool — you want to dive deep and dominate.

Here are some advanced strategies to take your game to the next level:

The Power of Data-Driven Display

The days of “spray and pray” advertising are over.

Today’s display ads are fueled by data.

The more you know about your audience, the better you can target your ads and maximize your ROI.

Here’s how to harness the power of data:

  • Build detailed customer personas: Go beyond basic demographics. Understand their pain points, motivations, and buying behaviors.
  • Segment your audience: Don’t treat everyone the same. Tailor your ads to different segments based on their interests and needs.
  • Track everything: Clicks, impressions, conversions, you name it. The more data you collect, the better you can optimize your campaigns.
  • Use A/B testing: Experiment with different ad creatives, copy, and targeting options to see what works best.
  • Leverage machine learning: Use AI-powered tools to automate bidding, targeting, and optimization.

Remember, data is your secret weapon.

The more you use it, the smarter and more effective your display ads will become.

Data Management Platforms (DMPs) Tools:

  • Lotame: Helps you collect, organize, and activate audience data.
  • Oracle BlueKai: Another popular DMP with advanced segmentation and analytics capabilities.

Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO)

Ever wish your ads could adapt to each individual viewer in real time?

Well, with dynamic creative optimization (DCO), they can.

DCO uses algorithms to automatically generate personalized ads based on user data, such as browsing history, demographics, and location.

Benefits of DCO:

  • Increased relevance: Your ads are more likely to resonate with viewers.
  • Improved engagement: Personalized ads tend to get more clicks and conversions.
  • Greater efficiency: You can create multiple variations of your ads without manual effort.

Challenges of DCO:

  • Complexity: It requires a solid understanding of the technology and data.
  • Cost: DCO can be expensive, especially for small businesses.
  • Control: You have less control over the final ad creative.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, DCO can be a game-changer.

But it’s not for the faint of heart.

Be prepared to invest time and resources to get it right.

DCO Platforms:

  • Jivox: A leading DCO platform with a focus on personalization and performance.
  • Bannerflow: Offers a DCO solution with a user-friendly interface and creative flexibility.
  • Ad-Lib.io: A cloud-based DCO platform that integrates with various ad networks and exchanges.

The Rise of Contextual Targeting

With privacy concerns on the rise, contextual targeting is making a comeback.

Instead of relying on user data, contextual targeting focuses on the content of the webpage where the ad is displayed.

For example, an ad for hiking boots might be shown on a website about outdoor adventures.

Advantages of contextual targeting:

  • Privacy-friendly: It doesn’t require tracking user behavior.
  • Brand safety: Your ads are less likely to appear next to inappropriate content.
  • Improved relevance: Your ads are more likely to be seen by people who are interested in your product or service.

Contextual targeting is not a silver bullet, but it’s a valuable tool to have in your arsenal.

It’s a great way to reach your audience in a relevant and non-intrusive way.

Contextual Targeting Platforms:

  • GumGum: Uses computer vision technology to analyze webpage content and deliver contextually relevant ads.
  • IAS (Integral Ad Science): Provides brand safety and contextual targeting solutions.

Programmatic Guaranteed and Private Marketplaces: Taking Control

While open auctions are the most common way to buy programmatic ads, they might not be the best fit for every brand.

If you’re looking for more control and premium inventory, you might want to consider programmatic guaranteed or private marketplaces (PMPs).

Programmatic Guaranteed (PG):

Think of PG as a VIP pass to premium ad placements.

With PG, you negotiate directly with publishers to secure specific ad inventory at a fixed price.

This gives you guaranteed access to high-quality placements, ensuring your ads appear on the most relevant and reputable sites.

Benefits of PG:

  • Guaranteed inventory: You know exactly where your ads will be shown.
  • Premium placements: You get access to the most sought-after ad spaces.
  • Brand safety: You can control the context in which your ads appear.

Private Marketplaces (PMPs):

PMPs are exclusive invite-only auctions where publishers offer their premium inventory to a select group of advertisers.

PMPs give you access to high-quality ad space at potentially lower prices than PG deals.

Benefits of PMPs:

  • Access to premium inventory: You can bid on ad space that isn’t available in open auctions.
  • Increased transparency: You know exactly which publishers you’re buying from.
  • Greater control: You can set your own bidding strategies and floor prices.

Whether you choose PG or PMPs, these buying models give you more control over your programmatic campaigns.

They allow you to secure premium inventory, protect your brand reputation, and achieve your advertising goals with greater precision.

Programmatic Guaranteed (PG) & Private Marketplaces (PMPs):

Deal ID Platforms:

  • Google Ad Manager: Offers a deal management platform for PG and PMP deals.
  • Mediaocean: Provides tools for managing programmatic direct deals.

Inventory Discovery Platforms:

  • Index Exchange: A supply-side platform (SSP) that offers premium inventory through PMPs.
  • OpenX: Another SSP with a focus on transparency and quality inventory.

Data Management Platforms (DMPs):

  • Nielsen: Offers audience data and insights to inform your PG and PMP buying strategies.
  • Experian Marketing Services: Provides data and analytics for audience targeting and segmentation.

Creative Optimization: The Art and Science

Display ads are more than just pixels on a screen.

They’re a canvas for creativity, storytelling, and persuasion.

But to truly capture your audience’s attention, you need to optimize your creative assets.

Design principles:

  • Visual hierarchy: Guide the viewer’s eye through the ad with a clear layout.
  • Contrast: Use contrasting colors and fonts to make your message pop.
  • Negative space: Don’t overcrowd your ad. Give your design room to breathe.


  • Keep it concise: Get to the point quickly.
  • Use strong verbs: Inspire action with powerful language.
  • Highlight benefits: Focus on what your product or service can do for the viewer.

Call-to-action (CTA):

  • Make it clear: Tell the viewer what you want them to do (e.g., “Shop Now,” “Learn More,” “Sign Up”).
  • Use contrasting colors: Make your CTA stand out.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Use phrases like “Limited Time Offer” or “Don’t Miss Out.”

Remember, your creative assets are the face of your brand.

Invest in high-quality design and copywriting to make a lasting impression.

Creative Optimization:

Design Tools:

  • Adobe Photoshop: Industry-standard software for creating and editing images.
  • Sketch: A vector-based design tool popular for UI/UX design and ad creation.
  • Figma: A collaborative design platform for creating interactive and responsive ads.

Copywriting Tools:

  • Grammarly: Helps you catch grammar and spelling errors.
  • Hemingway Editor: Analyzes your writing for clarity and readability.
  • CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: Scores your headlines for effectiveness.

Measurement and Attribution: Proving Your Impact

Don’t just throw money at display ads and hope for the best.

Track your results, analyze your data, and optimize your campaigns to maximize your ROI.

Key metrics:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ad is displayed.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who click on your ad.
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of people who take a desired action (e.g., purchase, sign-up) after clicking on your ad.
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS): The revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising.

Attribution models:

  • Last-click attribution: Gives credit to the last ad clicked before a conversion.
  • First-click attribution: Gives credit to the first ad clicked in a conversion path.
  • Multi-touch attribution: Distributes credit across multiple touchpoints in a conversion path.

By understanding your data, you can identify what’s working and what’s not.

Use this information to refine your targeting, creative, and bidding strategies for continuous improvement.

Measurement and Attribution:

Analytics Platforms:

  • Google Analytics: Tracks website traffic and conversions.
  • Adobe Analytics: Provides advanced analytics and reporting capabilities.
  • Mixpanel: Offers product analytics to understand user behavior.

Attribution Platforms:

  • AppsFlyer: Mobile attribution platform that tracks app installs and in-app events.
  • Adjust: Another popular mobile attribution platform with advanced features.
  • Bizible: B2B marketing attribution platform that connects marketing efforts to revenue.

The Power of Display: Your Unfair Advantage

Display advertising is a powerful tool that can help you reach your target audience, build brand awareness, and drive business results.

Here’s a few resources to stay ahead of the curve.

  • Industry Publications: AdExchanger, Digiday, Adweek.
  • Conferences & Events: DMEXCO, Programmatic I/O, AdMonsters Ops.
  • Online Courses & Certifications: Google Ads, Facebook Blueprint, IAB Learning.

By mastering the strategies and techniques in this newsletter, you can gain a competitive edge and unlock the full potential of display advertising for your business.

Remember, the world of display advertising is constantly evolving.

Stay curious, experiment with new formats and technologies, and never stop learning.

The opportunities are endless.




Scott D. Clary
Scott D. Clary

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