Why Are Display Ads So Darn Effective?

Of all the main digital advertising tactics, display ads have a unique difference because they typically contain some sort of graphics. But that isn’t their only distinction. They actually have a more unique merit that other digital channels cannot even come close to.

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I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this cannot be about the banner ads in websites that everyone ignores without having any effect on users. This is where popular opinion is mistaken. While we’ve long believed in the power of display ads, which for us is based on the outstanding results we deliver for our clients, there is some interesting information in Robert Cialdini’s book Pre-Suasion that helps clarify some reasons why display ads are so effective.

Consider this quote from Cialdini’s book: “Recognition/recall, a widely used index of success for all other forms of ads, might greatly underestimate the effectiveness of banner ads. In the new studies, frequently interjected banners were positively rated and were uncommonly resistant to standard wear-out effects, yet they were neither recognized, nor recalled.”

What? Not recognized, nor recalled? How can that be?

Here is why. First, even though users seem to ignore them, repeated exposure to display ads has a build-up effect so that, when users view the ad on subsequent occasions, they are more favorable toward it. Second, subsequently, the more the ad is shown, the more users tend to like it. But it’s the lack of direct notice of the banners that makes them so effective in the first two ways noted above. As Cialdini asks,” Who in the advertising community would have thought that the absence of memory for a commercial message could be a plus?”

So, it’s the below-the-radar effect which is actually the really important distinguishing factor that display ads possess. It makes sense, too, especially given the high click-thru rates on remarketing ads.

From a competitive perspective, the sooner you can get your banner ads in front of potential customers (before they see the competitions’ ads), the better chance your brand has at establishing preferences earlier in customers’ minds.

In a manner of speaking, like an iceberg; if we can affect the 90% of the mind that is below the surface line of conscious perception, we can more easily – even effortlessly – affect the top 10% that is conscious perception. This is essentially what Cialdini means by pre-suasion.

Knowing this, we can create display ads for direct and remarketing efforts that drive better than average click-through’s and higher than normal conversions.

Start getting better results with your display advertising efforts. Click or call us and we’ll help you.


Richard Bergér is the VP of E-Business for ASTRALCOM, an integrated media services company located near Los Angeles, California. Richard draws on his military and psychology backgrounds to create pervasive content strategies, motivating conversion tactics and targeted audience acquisition for clients. Connect with Richard via his Google+ profile.





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