Before any holiday commercials air; before any department store starts decking the halls, businesses and advertisers of all types are preparing for the holiday rush. One way they are preparing is by planning out their media campaigns. Display media (i.e. banner ads) is a popular choice in the advertiser toolbox, and for good reason. It has evolved in to one of the most versatile mediums in advertising because of the wide variety of ad formats and targeting methodologies available. The scalability of display advertising also makes it an advertising medium available to everyone from fortune 500 companies to small local businesses.

Digital Paid Media drives holiday successA lot of preparation is involved in setting up a display advertising campaign if you want to do it right. The first major steps in the process that should be considered at this point in the year are:

  1. Establishing goals
  2. Defining your messaging strategy
  3. Preparing assets

Establishing goals for your business is a critical first step, and can range anywhere from driving awareness and website visits, to generating revenue by driving product purchases. You may even find that you want to fill several different stages of the funnel, ranging from awareness to loyalty, in which case you would want to target your audience differently and track against multiple key performance indicators.

As you define measurable goals and move into the second and third steps of this process, you’ll find that there are an extremely wide variety of options available to your business. This process is made simpler by having very specific goals defined. If you are working with an agency or media buyer they will help eliminate options that don’t make sense for your business. Agencies also have the benefit of having tested a variety of strategies for other clients and can apply those findings to your business.

Even if you are working with an agency, it helps to have some background on what options are available to your business from a messaging and targeting perspective. The following are considerations that should be discussed when preparing both your messaging strategy and identifying what display assets you will need. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but to help prepare your business for the types of decisions you will need to make and the resources you may need to have accessible over the next few months.


Audience-Based Retargeting

If you have tested any type of display advertising, odds are you started with retargeting. Retargeting is usually the smartest place to begin because it generally nets out in the strongest ROI for your business, and generally it will pay for itself with the revenue generated.

But did you ever consider that even though your retargeting efforts are generating positive ROI, they could work even harder for your business? It is extremely common for businesses to put a remarketing code on every page of their website and launch a single campaign with a single message for all site visitors and run a highly effective display retargeting campaign for months or even years using the exact same approach. This is fine if you are just dipping your toes in the water and testing retargeting, but this blanked approach can be made much more powerful by making some simple adjustments.

First, think about how different types of visitors engage with your site and how that may help you segment your audience. You may want to get your analytics team involved to help you define common user paths or identify how you may speak to users differently based on on-site engagement. I will generally recommend, as a first step, for e-commerce businesses to create four audience targets, which will encompass all site visitors.

  1. Site visitors who did not view a product page
  2. Site visitors who viewed one or more product pages, but did not put an item in their cart
  3. Site visitors who placed an item in their cart, but did not make a purchase
  4. Site visitors who made a purchase

In a brick and mortar location, would a customer service representative address shoppers who have just walked in the door differently than someone waiting in the checkout line? Absolutely. So why shouldn’t you try to take the same approach in retargeting, when you arguably know even more about your customers interests and purchase intentions? If executed properly, these ads can serve as your online customer service representatives, ensuring that your customers are being guided through the purchase process in a more linear way.


Dynamic Display

If your business is running an e-commerce website, dynamic display assets should be a consideration. You’ve probably seen these ads, and you may have been surprised by how much the advertiser knew about your browsing habits. For instance, I recently moved into a new house (which probably makes me a prime target for many e-commerce businesses) and I was browsing several different styles of curtains online. For the last several weeks I’ve been retargeted with both traditional banner ads as well as Facebook news feed ads, and the ad included a specific set of curtains I previewed, but had not purchased. This is a popular form of retargeting, and it tends to be more successful than using more generic banner ads because of the high degree of relevancy to the user and their current shopping interests. However, the implementation of dynamic display retargeting is more complicated to execute than traditional retargeting.

If you’ve never tested dynamic retargeting, I’d recommend starting to test using Google AdWords. The tagging setup will be the most complex step, but the generation of creative assets and setup of specific audiences is simpler. This is a great place to test the strategy before you consider putting resources towards more customized creative units.


Sequential Messaging

Ever get tired of seeing the exact same banner ads from a company week after week? It’s likely your customers experience the same banner fatigue, especially if you aren’t setting frequency caps or if you are setting fairly high frequency caps (15+). One way to integrate more variety into your campaign, while combating banner fatigue and increasing engagement from your audience, is to use sequential messaging. There are several ways to execute sequential messaging, but the most common way is to serve banner ads in a “sequence,” showing messages 1, 2 and 3 in order to users as they see your ads. Another strategy is to show one ad for a specific time period (a few days to a week) followed by the other variations for a defined period of time.

As a best practice, all of the creative executions should embody consistent elements such as style, color themes and brand imagery, but the copy may be unique, or the animation may be different. Your creative team should also be able to execute something that is consistent with the look and feel of any off-line brand messaging.

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