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5 Reasons Your Display Ad Campaign Isn’t Working

By: Hagan Major


Surfing the web these days, you might notice that a one-time view of a trendy shirt will quickly follow you around the Internet. Look up engagement rings, and you’ll be bombarded with ads for wedding venues and flowers. Perform a search for a concert, and that band will fill your feeds and display ads.

Display is the web’s oldest advertising medium, but it’s arguably one of the most misunderstood marketing channels. After the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, banner advertising suffered a lack of development and went into a dark age. Other channels with better targeting capabilities, such as search, quickly took over.

However, display has undergone a renaissance over the last few years, thanks to the development of new technologies for audience targeting and media buying.

Display Is Back

Display advertising may be back in the game, but is your strategy stuck in 1999? Here are common reasons your ad campaigns might be off-track and how to fix them.

  1. You’re not mapping back to goals. To succeed with display ads, it’s important to articulate exactly what goals you want to achieve with an ad campaign, whether it’s driving leads, selling products, or upselling existing customers. Metrics reflecting multiple data points on your conversion funnel are key, but they must also clearly show whether other online acquisition channels are receiving a lift. These goals should be set up before your campaigns and creative are built.
  2. Testing isn’t top of mind. Many companies select an ad that drives a high volume of traffic to their website, thinking this equates to conversions. But data proves that creative elements like ad copy, imagery, and calls to action all have a greater impact on user behavior than the landing page does, so you should always be testing and comparing the effectiveness of those.
  3. The agency isn’t looped in. Another big mistake companies make is not sharing insights with their agency or media buying firm. Display advertising is a data-driven medium, making user targeting and segmentation crucial pieces of the puzzle. For campaigns to be effective, your marketing partners need to know as much as possible about your customers and their interactions with your website. Often, this can be accomplished with segment or opt-out pixels so your marketing partners don’t target your current customers with prospecting ads.
  4. You’re a sucker for sales pitches. It can be easy to find yourself “wowed” by new technology. There’s currently a lot of buzz around optimization algorithms, and advertisers are frequently seduced by the promise of an ad algorithm system that will scientifically (read: magically) make their campaigns work.

    However, this is alchemy at best. No system, platform, software, formula, trade desk, algorithm, DSP, or engine can optimize as effectively as an experienced ad trafficker. These systems can help, but we haven’t reached the age of set-it-and-forget-it campaign optimization yet.

  5. Your strategy lacks a personal touch. When buying media, think about reaching people, not publishers. Buying ad inventory on a marquee website may sound great, but sometimes the price is too high to be ROI-positive. If you think in terms of reaching an audience, you quickly find that the same people who visit The New York Times also visit smaller websites that are less expensive than a household name publisher.
Media buying is expensive for small businesses, and display advertising can be confusing. But the opportunities this channel provides can make a big difference. Display’s age and standardization make it prevalent on nearly every commercial website. It’s the most scalable online advertising outlet and a critical part of any digital marketing strategy.

How are you going to optimize your display ad campaigns to reach your audience effectively?

Published: August 19, 2014

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Hagan Major

Hagan Major is co-founder and COO of YellowHammer, a New York City-based performance trading platform that provides programmatic buying solutions for advertisers and agencies that demand a tangible return on their advertising dollars. As COO, Hagan is responsible for YellowHammer’s corporate strategy, client performance, and distribution. He oversees the development of YellowHammer’s technology platforms on the buying and selling sides, as well as the development of client strategies.

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