An Introduction to Display Ads

a megaphone's message reaching cellphones, search engines, and video

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Display advertising is a form of pay-per-click advertising made up of text-based, image or video ads that encourage people to click-through to your landing page and take action. Display ads appear on third-party websites and can be strategically placed on sites that are relevant to your product or service. They are categorized into three strategies:

  1. Site Placement Advertising: Advertisers can choose the sites they would like their ads to appear on.
  2. Contextual Advertising: Advertisers choose relevant sites and of similar content to the product or service they are advertising.
  3. Remarketing Advertising: Ads will appear for users who have visited your website. By using cookies you can track who has visited your website, then when users visit other sites your ad will appear.

Why is Display Advertising Important?

Display advertising is unlike other forms of traditional advertising because it is more targeted. You can easily create a target audience showing them specific display ads reminding them about your brand or product, or website. Display advertising is important because it targets people exactly where they are spending their time; on social media, on news sites, or even on websites from other businesses who sell ad space or ad inventory.

Display ads are most effective for building brand awareness and loyalty; the top and bottom of the marketing funnel. Display advertising is one of the best methods to build awareness for your business and your brand because it doesn’t rely on people to search for your business. People don’t need to know the name of your business or products because, with display ads, they are shown based on demographics, behaviour, and cookies.

For larger, more established companies, display campaigns are also effective in retaining their presence and keeping brand recall high. Even for big companies like Tim Horton’s or Adidas, display ads are helpful in reminding customers every so often about their product.

Types of Display Ads

Banner Ads

A banner ad is a common form of a display ad and is embedded into another website. Banner ads are image-based rather than text-based and is made up of an image or multimedia object. The purpose of a banner ad is to promote a brand or product and get people to visit the site by clicking the ad.

Aviva Insurance banner ad at the top of the screen on Toronto Star website.

Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that cover the whole screen of an app or a website. This type of ad is placed between content between natural transition points. This makes them different from other ad types like banner ads because they are meant to be interactive.

3 cell phones each with an advertisement covering the full screen.
Source: Google

Users can close these ads by clicking the ‘x’ in the corner or by clicking on the ad. Image-based ads can be closed immediately, however, video ads may have a countdown before providing an exit option.

Rich Media Ads (HTML5)

Rich media ads are different than other ad formats in that they offer a creative step up from other types of display ads. This type of ad can showcase video, audio or other forms of motion that encourages interaction with users.

A banner ad on YouTube for "The Jungle Book" with a playable video and calls-to-action.
Source: Google

Video Ads

With platforms like YouTube as well as social networks like Instagram and Facebook, advertisers can create video campaigns through new avenues. They allow you to reach your audience and connect with them on a personal level.

Video ads can be shown before, during or after video content or can be shown within a social media feed. Video ads can also appear on partner websites and within apps. Below is an example of a video ad for the new Terminator movie that I found browsing through my Instagram feed.

An Instagram video advertising the new Terminator: Dark Fate movie.

Responsive Ad

Responsive display ads automatically adjust their size, appearance and format to fit ad spaces based on devices. You can include information like a headline, description, image and logo, then Google will automatically create the ads. With the Google Display Network, you can use targeting to show your ads in specific contexts, to particular audiences and in particular locations. Responsive ads make it easier to create and show your ads across the Display Network.

3 different responsive ads advertising for a seafood restaurant.
Source: Google

Display Ads Platforms

Google Display Network

The Google Display Network is one of the biggest ad platforms available for advertisers right now. It includes over 2 million websites, videos and apps where your ads can appear reaching over 90% of internet users worldwide. 

It allows you to reach people while they’re browsing on their favourite websites, checking their Gmail account, using their device or apps, and of course, while they are watching videos on YouTube. The Google Display Network is designed so you can strategically target your audience at the right place and at the right time with responsive display ads.

Facebook Audience Network

The Facebook Audience Network consists of websites and mobile apps approved by Facebook where ads can be shown. This also includes extending ad campaigns to Instagram across the internet on websites and apps helping advertisers reach more of the people they care about. The Audience Network allows for banner ads, interstitial ads, native ads, carousel ads, single image and single video ads.

Microsoft Audience Network

The Microsoft Audience Network is a native advertising solution that is similar to the previous platforms listed above and is powered by the Microsoft Graph and Artificial Intelligence. With the Microsoft Audience Network, you can create Microsoft Audience Ads that can be targeted by location, age group, gender and device. Microsoft Audience Ads can appear across the Microsoft platform on sites like MSN,, Microsoft Edge and other partners. 

Benefits of Display Ads


With display ads, it’s simple to create specific segments from your own contacts lists. You can target the right audience by placing your ads on the right websites based on your users’ behaviour. This includes demographic and geo-targeting, along with specific interests of your target audience. Your ads can appear on websites and apps that are similar to the products and services that you offer. 


Platforms like Google Display Network and Facebook Audience Network allows you to access millions of sites along with many apps. These kinds of platforms offer multiple channels for your ads to be seen. With Google, you will be able to advertise on both Google sites and YouTube, along with partner sites. With Facebook, you can easily create campaigns for Facebook and Instagram, and partner sites as well.

Low Costs

With display ads, it costs less while allowing you to control and make changes to your campaign based on the performance of your ads. Display ads also allow you to set the price you want to pay when your ad is displayed. Display advertising flexible because it can be as short as it is necessary, so you’re not stuck spending your money when your ads are not working.

Advanced Tracking

Display advertising is no different than other digital marketing strategies. You want to be able to track and understand how your campaign is performing. Many of the display ad platforms have built-in tracking that gathers data on click-through rates, site visits, and conversions. Knowing what is working and what is not is the difference between having a successful campaign and wasting ad spend.

Final Thoughts

Display advertising can be difficult when figuring out how to advertise on platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Bing. The best place to start is to determine your goals and how display advertising can help reach them. 

Display ads can be effective if you’re looking to build your brand awareness or remind customers about your brand. It is also important in understanding your audience and the power of your customers. Collecting information on your customers and understanding the patterns of behaviour is important in displaying your ads at the right time and, more importantly, at the right place.

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