There are several categories of display advertising that might be used to target users across the web. I’ve already walked through the different ways to produce display ads whether interactive, dynamic, animated, or static and now we will look at the four primary categories to run them across the web. The four categories for targeting are: contextual, behavioral, geofencing, and retargeting. Before explaining the difference between these types of display advertising could help you find new customers, you might also wonder how do display ads get served across the web?
Display Advertising Networks, Exchanges, and Demand Side-Platforms
When dealing with the Google Display Network, you are advertising across all sites that are requesting to serve ads on their website as a web publisher through Google AdSense. This is by far the most dominant display advertiser network due to Google’s reach across the web and it is the leading search engine. You can also place direct buys on websites that offer a large amount of reach, for example, those like the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. These sites, as well as most other sites, reserve a certain amount of inventory for ad networks like Google AdSense. But there are a large number of ad networks that are available to serve display ads across the web and can be accessed directly between advertisers, i.e. the buyers, and publishers, also know as the sellers. You can now also tap into ad networks through ad exchanges such as DoubleClick which is commonly used by digital marketing agencies in addition to programmatic vendors like Centro. Often, multiple ad exchanges are aggregated through a demand-side platform that offers real-time bidding on available inventory. There are a lot of parties that could be involved in the exchange of a display ad placement on a website, just know that these different technologies have been implemented to build upon the previous digital advertising technology in order to give users more control and understand where their ads are running.
Four Display Ad Types
Once you understand the basics of how to run display advertising across the web, that’s enough to be dangerous and start to consider what capabilities advertisers have using display ads. Let’s address the four ways to serve display ads across the web:
Contextual targeted display ads is defined by topic or keyword based on a websites content and is then used to serve ads based on this criteria through ad networks. The conversation of how to categorize content is between the web advertisers and publishers. It does not take advantage of a users personal search history such as page visits or actions on a particular website, only details based on a website or a browser’s specific keyword targeting and/or category specific topics. How this works in Google AdWords is an advertiser or agency taps into Google’s Display Network by requesting to prospect to new people based on contextual categories predefined by Google. Once you submit the display ad, it serves on sites that have been determined to fit that criteria.
Behavioral targeted display ads are primarily tracked through a users cookie history based on what sites a user has visited and categorizing their experience into relevant topics and interests based on actions taken on a particular site. This could also capture characteristics such as purchases and demographic information. Interest targeting could be a separate display advertising type as it is not a true behavioral targeting method as advertisers are not able to get granular into the data of website actions to understand user intent. Instead, Google makes some basic assumptions on various previous user search history habits and provides interest categorization that allows advertisers to target ads to those users. Behavioral targeting could cover interest targeting because it is technically behavioral in nature, except there is the capability to target behavioral characteristics on a much more detailed and personal level. The media has been discussing the government considering cracking down on behavioral targeting, that typically would not include interest targeting as it is not identifying actionable steps that were taken by a specific user and there is nothing of a personal nature being shared with the advertiser.
Geofencing display ads send a push notification to app users on their mobile phone based on a GPS defined geographical boundary or a mobile signal antenna through radio frequency identification. This is specifically beneficial for tight radiuses around specific physical locations most often associated with a retail purpose, promotion, or event that encourages foot-traffic. Just to be clear, running mobile based geotargeted ads to users via Google AdWords is not the same thing. Google bases geotargeting on IP addresses and not GPS information. Even if Google does use GPS targeting and they just don’t tell us that they do, the reporting in Google Analytics does not show us the specific location of the individual, just the IP address, so it is consistent with desktop computer targeting. If you want the transparency needed to realize a true geofencing campaign, at this time you will need to work with a geofencing provider that gives more clarity on the technology being used.
Retargeting is advertising after a person comes to a website and based on their interaction with the website. The advertiser can essentially add users into a specific audience pool that sends messaging to the user across the web. The neat thing about retargeting is that you have more control over the messaging and can define it based on digital KPI’s and specific event actions on your site or visits to specific pages or simply visits to any page on the site to bring additional recognition of your brand, product, or service and entice visitors to return to your website.
Display Ad Type Conclusion
In many cases, these four categories can overlap as there are certainly geofencing campaigns that target contextually or retargeting ads that are behavioral in nature. It is assumed that all display ads are geo-targeted to a specific degree, unless you want to target the whole world, which is not likely. At a base level of knowledge, these four different types of display ads have distinctions that make them better for a given situation and based on the goal of the marketing campaign. If I can answer any questions about your display campaign as a Dallas Display Advertising Designer and Expert, please let me know how I can help.