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The Ultimate Guide to Digital Display Advertising

Digital Advertising cover

In the vast universe of advertising, digital display ads have been a prominent force for nearly three decades, ever since the debut of the first banner ad in 1994. Since then, these ads have undergone a remarkable transformation, transcending from small, pixelated designs to captivating visuals with high-quality videos and interactive features.

While the essence of digital display advertising—a combination of brand presence, compelling content, and a persuasive call to action (CTA)— remains unchanged, the possibilities and strategic applications have expanded exponentially. Today, these ads have become a mission-critical component of a brand’s long-term marketing strategy, demanding careful consideration and integration into a well-thought-out flight plan.

Join us as we launch into the world of digital display advertising, unraveling its evolution and exploring how it seamlessly aligns with your brand’s overarching vision and marketing goals. Prepare to uncover the hidden potential of this dynamic advertising medium and harness its power to propel your brand to new heights.

What Is Digital Display Advertising?

Digital display advertising entices customers with compelling visuals—text, imagery, or video—and includes a link to a webpage with more information about the featured product or service.

There are many types of display advertisements, but the most common formats include some kind of rich media—a still image, a video, or an animation. Regardless of the ad presentation, however, the goal is always to get the viewer to click.

Some of the common types of display ads include:

What are the Benefits of Display Ads?

Digital display ads are a go-to for brands for many reasons, including:

Increased Brand Awareness

Display ads showcase your brand to a wide audience across the internet, connecting with a wealth of potential customers as they’re searching for solutions to a pain point.

Improved Reach

Display ads work on a wide variety of channels, so you’re not limited to using a preferred social media network or an email list. Your ad can appear anywhere customers are searching for products, services, or recommendations. These ads also work across devices and formats, including mobile devices and apps, creating a digital-out-of-home (DOOH) experience.

Personalized Targeting

Display advertising enables numerous ways to address audience targeting, such as utilizing specified keywords and search terms for channels or online publications through media buying. You can also target based on demographic details for geographic locations, languages, interests, income ranges, and topics.

Increased ROI

Remarketing ads perform better than standard ads because they target potential customers who have expressed interest in your brand or products. If your marketing campaigns are designed for conversion, retargeting aims to bring customers back to your site to complete a purchase.

More Creativity

With so many options for display advertising, you can get creative with your executions. From videos and interactive features to live feeds, countdowns to launch, and much more, you have the opportunity to experiment and make your ad more engaging to attract the right audience.

When to Use Digital Display Ads

Digital display ads are versatile – they hold value across the entire buyer journey.


In the awareness stage, the customer is mindful of a problem and seeking solutions. These ads are focused on a wide audience to make potential customers aware of the brand, product, or service.

Some of the preferred digital display ads for this stage include native, social media, programmatic, and video streaming ads.


From awareness to engagement, the channels stay the same, but display ads in this stage focus more on an intent for conversion. General search, social, and video streaming ads are optimal, as well as gated content or demos for certain audiences.


In the consideration stage, customers are evaluating their brand or product options. The ads are focused on intent or interest in a retargeting capacity and might be targeted using comparative terms or sites visited.


At this stage, the customer is ready to complete a purchase. Also focused on retargeting, most of the ad impressions will be aimed at customers who have expressed interest, such as customers with abandoned carts or those who have visited other intent-driven pages on your site.


The strongest brands understand the importance of the customer in the post-purchase stage—this is where they can become loyal brand advocates for future purchases and referrals. Digital display ads are used in the advocacy stage to keep your brand top of mind.

Digital Display Ad Optimization

Display ads can be difficult to measure and optimize, since most of them are used for top-of-the-funnel activities. There are several things to consider with your mission objective:

Naming Conventions

It’s important to structure your display ad campaign names, individual ad names, ad sets, and labels with your audience segmentation in mind. This helps you make decisions based on ad performance and ensure that your targeting is appropriate for your KPIs.

Buy-In from Stakeholders

Securing budget allocation for display ads can be challenging, especially if you can’t easily outline the ROI to stakeholders. It’s crucial to map out the KPIs that you will use for your ads and explain why those are recommended, whether that’s a result of trial and error, industry research, or past experience.

You should also set an expectation for when you anticipate the success of these ads to pay off in revenue to avoid any misconceptions with ad spend.

Define (and Redefine) Success

With awareness at the top of the funnel, the display advertising efforts and KPIs in this phase must be directed at saturating a target audience to build brand awareness. Start broad, then narrow the audience as you move down the funnel.

This can be challenging for advertisers, but there are several valuable KPIs you can track:

  • Organic and paid search clickthrough rate (CTR)
  • Brand search impression lift
  • Unattributed lead lift
  • Direct visitor lift

Following the click, there are several conversion points to bring that audience to the bottom of the funnel. This relies on indicators of intent, which may include:

  • Time on site
  • Article views
  • Social icon clicks
  • Key page views
  • Newsletter or email subscriptions
Organize Your Tech Stack

Technology tools are important to your success with display ads. Analytics, ad platforms, marketing automation, tag managers, CRMs, and other components come together to ensure your ad’s effectiveness.

Google Analytics and Google Ads are the top choices for your analytics platform as they provide reports to compare different metrics and KPIs easily. You can also use Google Tag Manager for conversion tracking.

There are plenty of marketing automation platforms to choose from, including HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua, some of which also have CRM built in.

Considerations for Display Ad Creative

The numbers are important, but there’s more to creating successful display ads. Truly creative ads stand out from the pack – without being distracting – and appeal to emotion.

Here are some other elements to consider with your ad creative:

Pre- and Post-Click Alignment

Customers who click on your ads will be directed to a landing page or webpage on your site. To ensure maximum impact, your ad image or video, text, and landing page should all be consistent and cohesive.

Cross-Channel Alignment

You also need cohesiveness across your other marketing channels, including your sales teams, inbound and outbound marketing, and customer service. It’s important for these channels and teams to communicate to ensure that everyone is on the same page—building from the same launch manual.


Customers are demanding higher levels of personalization from their favorite brands. Your ads should be personalized to each audience segment and their stage of the buyer journey, which you can achieve with analytics and automation.

For example, a retargeting ad that’s personalized may feature products that the customer added to their cart or wishlist, rather than broad brand messaging.


You spend a lot of time and money on creative, so it’s best to look for opportunities to repurpose it. For example, a 30-second video from an ad could be reused as a carousel for a social ad, embedded in a blog article, or shared in an email. You can also take stills from videos to include in other ads.

Ignite Your Display Ad Launch Sequence

Display ads are a great way to cast a wide net and boost brand awareness to grow interest, engagement, conversions, and advocacy. With the right tools, and the help of a digital marketing agency like Rocket Launch, you can unlock the power of your brand for lasting results.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Still have questions? Learn more about online advertising:

What Is Display vs. Programmatic Digital Advertising?

Digital display advertising and programmatic advertising are two facets of digital advertising and marketing. Display ads cover particular ad formats while programmatic advertising refers to a strategy for publishing ads.

How Effective Is a Digital Display Advertising Campaign?

Digital display advertising is an important strategy to nurture leads and increase conversion rates. As the ads target different stages of the funnel, the customer is reminded not only of your brand but their potential purchase.

What Is the Difference Between Targeted and Non-Targeted Advertising?

Targeted ads are directed to customers who are already interested in your brand, product, or service. These ads require higher investments, however, so they’re reserved for later stages in the funnel. Non-targeted advertisements require a lower investment and reach a wider audience at the top of the funnel.

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