From its inception, the online display advertising channel proved to be an unfair playing field for many smaller advertisers. The inflexible nature of banner ads favored businesses with products and services that appealed to the broadest customer base and underdelivered to companies with more narrow targets. For credit card companies, household products manufacturers and movie rental businesses, banners were effective enough. Meanwhile, companies with very specific audiences battled against broad-based advertisers for attention and ultimately lost.
Compounding the problem: measurement. Click-through rates, with a few exceptions, significantly underperformed in display compared with other online channels, particularly search. And they captured only a small portion of the overall value of an impression. Advertisers lacked the ability to gauge intent to buy and couldn't determine with any degree of certitude if a banner ultimately triggered a conversion. In the end, companies shifted their advertising budgets away from display and moved increasingly toward search-based campaigns.
In the online game of new customer acquisition, banner ads were second-string players—until the game changed.
What's different about banner ads now? Technologies have converged to deliver real muscle into what was formerly the 90-pound weakling of marketing campaigns. Now banners can be used with the same precision as search tactics thanks to two game-changing innovations involving personalization and the ability to financially measure the value of an impression.
Leading-edge display advertisers can now distinguish between an existing customer and an unrecognized, potential customer regardless of the website on which the ad was seen. To illustrate how, imagine Company A, a mobile phone service provider. Company A wants to deliver personalized banner messages to all its existing customers regardless of which sites they are visiting online. At the same time, it needs to serve more generic branding messages to all unrecognized, potential customers viewing banners on the same sites. With this new personalization capability, Company A can now do both.
How is this level of personalization possible? Through customer insights Company A already possesses—insights that, until now, have been locked away in its backend customer database (CRM) systems. Thanks to the most recent advances in display advertising technology, advertisers can dynamically serve highly relevant messages to existing and potential customers on virtually any site on the Web, powering their banner display ads and, ultimately, leveling the online playing field.
As for measurement, the latest capabilities in integrated digital media campaigns make it possible for advertisers to gauge the financial impact of their banner impressions across other digital media channels. Understanding the full value that online display advertising delivers to a business allows CMOs to better distribute advertising budgets.
Now may be the time to reconsider your display advertising strategy, as those companies that move first and use banners to drive new levels of personalization and conversion will win the battle for customer relevance.
Baiju Shah is a senior executive and Mike Williams is a senior manager at Accenture Interactive, a unit of Accenture. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.