Display 101: A Fundamentals Crib Sheet

By ​Jacob Ajwani

December 11, 2013

While the majority of my career has been rooted in evangelizing conversion optimization, I spent the years between Adobe and Monetate submerged in the other pond of online marketing—display. More specifically, improving the performance of display via machine learning.display 101

Along the way, I learned a lot about the intricacies and nuances of display, but from the perspective of a conversion optimization marketer.

So join me for this three-part Display 101 course. You’ll learn about the basics, then kick it up a notch, and by the third installment you’ll know all the ins and outs that a conversion optimizer needs to know to make a successful foray into display marketing.

But before we get into the first installment of this series, let me just preface this by saying to those marketers who think display is dying off—stop the wishful thinking. Display marketing has become just as effective as paid search, and it’s been enjoying a huge renaissance over the past two years. Display is here to stay.

Here are the three fundamentals of display:

It can take a village to deploy a display campaign

This is the starkest difference between the world of display and conversion optimization. Conversion optimizers usually have greater autonomy because the their platforms are more nimble.

But for display campaigns, the workflow not only includes more steps—negotiating insertion orders, emailing tags back and forth—but more people. Besides the decision makers on the brand side, other common players include the creative agency, the media buying agency, and the inventory provider.

The point is, if you’re new to display and feel that the collaborative effort required to deploy campaigns can take weeks—you’re right. It’s the nature of the beast, so take a deep breath and realize this is normal.

Buy the audience, not the publisher

The shift from purchasing impressions Costco-style (bulk) to auctioning each impression off individually to the highest bidder is today’s most monumental change in media buying.

For example, purchasing direct campaigns on Huffingtonpost.com is beneficial to the advertiser who needs to control the context in which the ads are displayed. But in reality, this wide-net approach tends to hurt campaign performance because the target is too generic.

On the other hand, real-time bidding (RTB) makes your media dollars work harder and smarter through targeting visitor types based on a demographic, behavioral and psychographic level. The cost per impression might be more expensive, but the return on ad spend (ROAS) will improve because of the granular targeting RTB introduces.

Take charge of your domains

To get new eyeballs to your website, be sure to review the domains the demand-side platforms (DSP), trade-desks and exchanges are permitting your ads to run on. Don’t leave this to a trade-desk or an algorithm—assume the reasonability yourself.

Also, ruthlessly blacklist every three days. Your trade-desk will hate you for this and screech that you’re limiting your reach—but so what? Their revenue structure is dependent on you burning impressions, while your ROAS is dependent on you spending wisely.

Don’t play their game, play your own. Too often suspicious domains (riddled with incoherent messaging) infiltrate ad exchanges. These are set up by cunning individuals looking to profit from participating in ad networks. Blacklist without apologies.

Now that we’ve covered some display fundamentals, next time we’ll go a little more in depth about game changing inventory sources like FaceBook Exchange (FBX) and adoption of programmatic buying.

And if you have any questions about display, feel free to reach out to me directly at jajwani@monetate.com.

Jacob Ajwani is a former strategic services director at Monetate. As an early member of the Adobe Test & Target team (back when it was called Offermatica), Jacob became an established voice within the industry, pioneering personalization strategies for premier brands such as Audi, Disney, and Condé Nast. Between Monetate and Adobe, Jacob spent two years as vice president of client services for Cognitive Match, which focused on display ads, big data, and relevancy. Jacob is also an avid guest-blogger for Econsultancy.com.

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