Search Marketing

Rethinking the Way We Buy and Sell Display Ads

April 6, 2009

By Bryan Wiener, CEO of 360i

Display advertising: Can it be both a branding and a performance marketing tool? I’d argue yes, but not at the same time. And that’s where some of the recent debates over the art-and-science approach to display have gotten it wrong.

You see, we need to rethink the way we buy and sell display advertising in a way that clearly distinguishes between various marketers’ objectives — whether that is direct response (e.g., e-commerce sales or generating web leads) or enhancing the brand (influencing purchase intent, favorability ratings, etc). We’ll be best served by treating it not as a hybrid but as two different tactics.

Direct-response display is primarily a science with some much-needed art to entice consumers to engage. If the goal is to drive web sales, the tactics must be about scale, efficiency, behavioral marketing and ultimately cost per action. This efficacy has motivated direct-response marketers to allocate nearly one-third of their budgets to online initiatives. To continue to get the most out of digital marketing, direct-response marketers should continue to focus on the science of digital marketing — the data, technology, scale and automation to improve results that can be tracked down to the sale. The art is really in the deployment of the science. That’s not to say that ad units for direct response are not in need of a facelift, but it’s unrealistic to view this as a panacea.

Continue reading this column on Ad Age’s Digital Next blog.