The Future Of Display Advertising (It's Bigger Than You Think)

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Banner advertising (or display advertising) has a bad rap with consumers, but it’s a driving force in the advertising community.

For every person that claims to hate display advertising and for the millions of ad-blocking software downloads that happen annually, there’s still a major and brisk business being done in the selling and placement of banner ads. Online advertising networks continue to grow, and many of the more premium sites (be they brand name portals or highly trafficked niche sites) command decent CPMs that are making brands happy and publishers wealthy.

Will we move away from display advertising to another/better form of online advertising?

It’s not only the golden question when it comes to advertising, but something that both brands and publishers continue to grapple with. Leave it to Google to provide one of the more provocative statements about the potential future of online advertising. Yesterday, AdWeek reported that outgoing Google CEO, Eric Schmidt presented a keynote address at the Interactive Advertising Bureau‘s annual leadership meeting in California. Here is Schmidt’s message:

"The online display market could quickly become a $200 billion ad business — if it gets its act together… It’s happening faster than all of our predictions… It’s still too complicated to get a campaign up. It’s just too hard. It’s really a problem."

With the opportunity comes the hurdles. While organizations like the IAB have continually offered up standards and guidelines, it’s still the wild west when it comes to online advertising.

What’s truly missing for display advertising to be more successful?

  • Better technology. Because people go to websites for the content and because brands demand that their ads load prior to the content (to ensure that they are being seen), most ads must be super light and simple. This makes the creative more challenging because of the file size limitation. While companies like Say Media are doing interesting workarounds, the truth is that Marketers need better technology. Superior compression or the ability to manipulate the ad server in a way to speed up the delivery of bigger file sizes would go a long way.
  • Better creative. Because of the technology limitation, there is only so much that a creative can do in terms of content, but the size of the display ad’s physical space is an issue as well. No matter how big a display ad is, it’s still a fairly limited physical space. This makes it a lot less interesting for the majority of advertising creative-types to get excited about. Something has to give. If not, the industry will always be faced with a lack of desire for creative directors to really focus (and care) about display advertising.
  • Better ad serving. It’s not just about speed. It’s also about formats. If brands, publishers and media companies constantly have to worry about every technical aspect and varying ad sizes and versions coupled with different types of ad serving technologies, it becomes an even more challenging world. Organizing a large online display advertising campaign across multiple ad serving technologies makes the job increasingly difficult. People are looking to launch a campaign and not get stuck in the same minutia and detail as an air traffic controller at LaGuardia.
  • Better automation. If we can get the creative, technology and ad serving to dance and sing in unison, then I’ll agree with Schmidt that automating some of the more technical components will be critical to lowering the bar, so that more brands will get engaged with display advertising.
  • Better education. Ultimately, we need to train Marketers better. We need to do a better job of extolling the value of display advertising. Along with that, we need to be training many more Marketing professionals in all of the areas mentioned above. Making display advertising really work is still (somewhat of) a dark art. Better case studies, better professionals to train everyone else and an ongoing dialogue would help to create a much better marketplace.

What do you think needs to happen for this to turn into a $200 billion piece of advertising business?


  1. The banner ads environment has been kinda stale for a while.
    Actually the biggest innovation I have seen lately is also the most annoying: flash banner ads with purposedly very loud sound volume yelling and flashing to attract your attention.
    Honestly if I stop and think a moment about possible innovations or changes my mind goes blank, solutions like iAd could’ve been a possible alternative but, if I am not wrong, it’s going slower than expected by Apple, have you had personal experiences with that?

  2. Display advertising has a bad rep with marketers too, not just with consumers. Up until very recently, it has been a nightmare to buy space.
    1) they sell it by the truckload so you have to buy the whole “package”,
    2) you buy it blind, meaning you pay first, then you get to see what they gave you, and
    3) there’s no standardization of inventory, so you don’t know how much a unit is worth.
    I will say it has gotten MUCH better in past 18 months, but it’s still a long way from being as simple as search.

  3. Your article refers to web banners and when I hear Mr Schmidt from Google talking about that, I immediately think about AdWords. To me, AdWords campaigns are incredibly easy to set up but they lack the creative, customized part.
    Do you think the future of Display Advertising (on the Internet) will be a combination of current web banner creative with the set up easiness of Google AdWords?

  4. The snippet of video was not the segment where Schmidt discussed display advertising. I don’t see this as a zero-sum game. There will be many options and combinations needed for true success.

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