What Is Digital Display Advertising? – A Complete Explanation

What Is Digital Display Advertising? – A Complete Explanation

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You have probably heard the term “digital display advertising”. But what exactly does it mean?

Here’s what we are going to cover in this article:

  • What is digital display advertising?
  • What are the pros and cons of digital display advertising?
  • How to create an effective display ad?

We are also going to show you the most effective way to sell online.

Want to maximize your ad spend ROI?

Continue reading…

What Is Digital Display Advertising?

“Digital display advertising” is an umbrella term that is used to refer to digital banner ads.

It covers:

  • Text ads.
  • Image ads.
  • Video ads.

Note that interstitial ads that are displayed as pop-ups that cover the entire screen are considered to be display ads despite not being banner ads in a traditional sense.

Typically, display ads look like ads, which differentiates them from native ads that are designed to look like content (e.g. sponsored articles, search ads, etc.).

So where can you place display ads?

Here are three popular options:

Website Ads

Want to place a display ad on a specific website?

The most straightforward way to do that is to:

  1. Reach out to the website owner.
  2. Negotiate the terms for the ad placement.
  3. Place the ad on that website.

This is a more “human” approach to advertising because it allows you to build relationships with website owners, negotiate favorable terms, and tailor your ads to the audience of each site.

However, this approach isn’t scalable, so while it can be a great way to get started with display ads, you will likely have to start using display advertising networks at some point.

Newsletter Ads

Email marketing is arguably the most effective form of online marketing there is.

Marketers estimate that the average return on investment for every £1 spent on it is £35.41. That’s a 3541% ROI!

But what if you don’t have an email list of your own yet?

You can still use email marketing to promote your products by placing display ads in niche newsletters.

This is another “human” approach to advertising. It’s worth noting that displaying ads on one’s newsletter typically implies an endorsement of the product, so there’s a built-in social proof element. That being said, just like website ads, this approach isn’t scalable.

Still, it can be a great way to put your offer in front of your ideal customers, provided that the subscribers of that newsletter are your target audience.

Display Advertising Network Ads

Display advertising networks are advertising networks that allow you to show display ads on websites and apps that belong to those networks.

The most popular digital display network in the world is Google Display Network (GDN) which can reach 90% of Internet users worldwide.

While there are other display advertising networks out there, GDN is arguably the most powerful one, so it makes sense to start there.

Obviously, the human element goes out of the window when you are using GDN since there’s no interaction between you and the website owner or the app creator – GND acts as the intermediary between you two.

However, you get access to GDN’s insane reach and its state-of-the-art targeting functionality, plus unlike the previously discussed approaches, this approach to display advertising is scalable.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Digital Display Advertising?

Every online marketing method has its advantages and its disadvantages. Digital display advertising is no exception. So let’s take a look at its pros and cons…

Pro: Instant Market Feedback

It might be tempting to believe that you “just know” that your product is going to be a success.

However, the reality is that you can’t possibly know that until you put that product in front of your ideal customers.

You want to follow the “Lean Startup” approach to product development and get market feedback ASAP.

Display advertising allows you to do that:

  1. Create a minimum viable product (MVP).
  2. Show ads to your ideal customers.
  3. See what happens.

Are people interested in your product?

Validating business ideas this way can save you from wasting weeks, month, or even years on developing products that no one wants.

Pro: Access to Other People’s Audiences

When you are just starting out, you don’t have an audience of your own. So what should you do?


Tap into the audiences of other people.

Digital display advertising is one of the best ways to do that. By placing an ad on a website, a newsletter, or an app you are leveraging its existing audience.

This can be a great way to get your business off the ground.

Pro: Retargeting

Digital display advertising enables you to use retargeting.

Retargeting is the practice of showing ads to people who have clicked on one of your ads but didn’t respond to the call to action on that page (e.g. didn’t subscribe to your email list, didn’t buy your product, etc.).

You know how sometimes you visit a website, then start seeing that company’s ads all over the place?

You might think it’s just a frequency illusion, but it’s more likely that this is happening because of retargeting. These ads are following you around the Internet.

Yes, it’s creepy, but it’s also effective.

Con: Banner Blindness

Did you know that people tend to ignore everything that looks like an ad?

This phenomenon is known as banner blindness and has been observed as early as 1997.

“Users almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement, whether or not it’s actually an ad,” explains web usability expert Jakob Nielsen in his 2007 article on the topic.  

Banner blindness is the bane of digital display advertising because it has a drastic impact on its effectiveness.

Native ads have an advantage here because they are designed to look like content and therefore are less likely to be ignored.

Con: Ad blockers

Did you know that nearly half of global Internet users in the 16-24, 25-34, and 35-44 age groups use ad blockers?

This means that when they have their ad blockers turned on, you can’t reach them via digital display advertising at all. They simply won’t be able to see your ads.

Note that the more tech-savvy your ideal customers are, the more likely they are to use ad blockers (e.g. display ads are probably not the best way to reach software engineers).

What Are the Pros and Cons of Digital Display Advertising? Use of ad blockers chart.

Con: Obnoxiousness

When people were asked why they used ad blockers, the top three reasons were:

  • There are too many ads on the Internet (22.3%).
  • Too many ads are annoying or irrelevant (22.3%).
  • Ads are too intrusive (19.9%).

In other words: ads are obnoxious.

Con: Privacy Concerns

In the same survey, 11.2% of respondents said that they were worried that ads might compromise their online privacy.

This is a legitimate concern, especially when it comes to retargeting, aka following people around the Internet.

Of course, if you are manually reaching out to website owners, newsletter creators, and app creators to negotiate ad placement deals, then the situation is different. Why?

Because privacy concerns typically relate to the questionable practices of advertising platforms such as Facebook and Google.

You want to be especially careful about associating your brand with them if your company takes a public stand in favor of online privacy.

In short:

Display ads can be an effective way to promote your product, but you need to get around banner blindness.

That being said, know that since the public perceives them as obnoxious, people will likely have their guards up when it comes to ads.

That’s why it’s best to use display ads to get your business off the ground, then gradually move away from them towards less intrusive forms of marketing such as native ads, content marketing, email marketing, and so on.

Also, if your target audience is tech-savvy, then display ads might be a waste of time because your ideal customers likely use ad blockers.

Of course, these are just general guidelines, you need to experiment with various marketing methods to learn what works best for your business.

How To Create an Effective Display Ad

Okay, it’s easy to say “you need to get around banner blindness”, but how exactly can you do that?

Use a Pattern Interrupt Headline

A pattern interrupt headline is a headline that makes the potential customer stop in their tracks, do a double-take, and want to learn more.

Here are three ways to go about it:

A Benefit-Driven Headline

How will your offer make the potential customer’s life better? What is its #1 benefit? Emphasize that in the headline.

An Outrageous Headline.

This is a shocking statement that challenges the consensus view in your niche.

Just keep in mind that if you make an outrageous claim, you need to be prepared to back it up.

Also, you want to shock potential customers, not insult them, so don’t be offensive.

A Bizarre Headline

This is a headline that’s so wacko that the potential customer can’t help but go “What the…” and click on the ad to see what it’s all about.

For example:

You know what’s the most viewed video on our YouTube channel?

It’s a video ad called “ClickFunnels – This Gold Digger Got Rich Painting Nude Squirrels”.

And if you think that the title is bizarre, wait until you watch the video. There’s a reason why it got 2M+ views!

Use a Subheadline That Introduces the Offer

The purpose of the headline is to grab the potential customer’s attention.

The purpose of a subheadline is to present your offer in a compelling way.

It should have these two key elements:

  • An explanation as to what it is that you are offering (e.g. a free ebook, a free email course, a free video course, etc.).
  • An explanation of how it will make the potential customer’s life better (will help them learn a pull-up, sell more copies of their book, get a better job, whatever).

Just make sure that you set the right expectations from the start. Never promise something that you won’t be able to deliver.

Have a Call to Action Button That’s Impossible to Miss

People are used to call-to-action (CTA) buttons, so it makes sense to have one on your ad even if the entire ad is clickable.

What’s important is that:

  • The color of the CTA button stands out in the ad’s color scheme and ideally in the website’s, newsletter’s, or app’s color scheme as well (this is only possible if you place the ad manually as opposed to using a display advertising network).
  • The CTA button copy is benefit-driven (e.g. “Get Your Free Ebook” as opposed to “Download”) and legible even on a smartphone screen.
  • The CTA button is big enough to be impossible to miss.

The headline, the subheadline, and the CTA button are the three most important elements of your display ad.

Once you’ve got those sorted, you can experiment with:

  • Pattern-interrupt visuals. Use imagery to grab the potential customer’s attention.
  • Animations. Adding animated elements to an ad makes it more likely that the potential customer will notice it. This is especially true if the website you are displaying that ad on doesn’t have any other dynamic elements.
  • Video. Video ads can work well if you can manage to grab the potential customer’s attention within the first few seconds.

    Consider going for the casual  “I shot this with my iPhone” aesthetic. That way, your ad will look less like an ad and more like a YouTube video, which might make the potential customer more likely to watch it in its entirety.

    Tai Lopez’ “Here In My Garage (Official): Lamborghini, Knowledge, And Books With Tai Lopez” ad that has received 70M+ views is a classic of this genre.

The #1 Digital Display Advertising Mistake

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make with digital display advertising is this:

They use display ads to promote their products.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t take into account how people make purchasing decisions when shopping online.

Think about it:

When was the last time you saw an ad, clicked on it, and then bought that product right there and then?

We assume that it doesn’t happen that often.

You probably usually check out the company’s website, read a few articles on their blog, subscribe to their newsletter…

And then buy their product once you feel confident that it will indeed provide a solution to the problem that you are struggling with, right?

Well, that’s what everyone else does too, which is why it’s unreasonable to expect the potential customer to buy your product the moment they first hear about it.

So stop using digital display advertising to drive traffic to the sales page of your product.

Do this instead…

Create a Value Ladder Sales Funnel, Then Use Display Ads to Drive Traffic to It

Here at ClickFunnels, we believe that the Value Ladder sales funnel is the most effective way to sell online.

Here’s how it looks like:

Create a Value Ladder Sales Funnel, Then Use Display Ads to Drive Traffic to It, The Value Ladder graphic.

It has four stages:

  • Bait. You offer the potential customer a lead magnet in exchange for their email address.
  • Frontend. You offer the potential customer your least expensive and least valuable product.
  • Middle. You offer the customer a more expensive and more valuable product.
  • Backend. You offer the customer your most expensive and most valuable product.

This sales funnel works so well because it allows you to:

  1. Start the relationship with the potential customer by offering free value.
  2. Nurture that relationship by continuing to provide free value.
  3. Build trust with that person by providing progressively more paid value at each stage. 

Much better than approaching a stranger with “Yo, here’s my product, now buy it!”, right?

Here’s how Russell explains it:

So instead of using display ads to promote your product, use them to promote your lead magnet.

Once you have the potential customer’s email address, then you can present them with your frontend offer.

And if they reject that offer?


Continue providing free value.

That way, once they are ready to invest in a solution to that problem, your product will be the first one that comes to their minds.

Want Russell To Show You How To Build a Sales Funnel?

Building a sales funnel from scratch can seem like a daunting task.

That’s why we have created our 5 Day Challenge where Russell walks you through it step-by-step.

You will learn how to:

  • Generate unlimited leads.
  • Create your first lead magnet.
  • Build your first sales funnel.
  • Create a simple 6-email follow-up sequence.
  • And launch your funnel!

…in just five days.

So don’t hesitate.

Join our 5 Day Challenge. It’s completely free!

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