What is Display Advertising?

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Advertising is crucial to every business, and understanding digital advertising is the most lucrative form of advertising. Digital advertising allows for advertisements to be seen everywhere and at any given time, so long as your audience owns something that connects to the internet. The original form of digital advertising was display advertising, and it’s still important today. Display advertising may be one of the largest forms of advertising your business can take on. Check out Seek Business Capital’s guide on display advertising and everything you’ll need to know about it.

A Brief History of Display Advertising

Display advertising started in the earliest days of the internet. The original display ad was an advertisement created by AT&T in 1994, promoting a virtual art museum. It was a simple text ad, telling users to click on the advertisement, with no explanation of what it led to. Since then, they’ve changed in appearance and complexity, but are still very similar to that first advertisement created over 20 years ago.

What Are Display Advertisements?

Display advertisements are, well, as simple as the name implies. They are digital advertisements that are displayed as a form of media online . Rather than populating following a search for a service or a good, display advertisements are inherently existent on a webpage, and are a push to sell the product they’re representing. These advertisements can be shown in any number of ways.

Banner ads are the oldest form of display advertisements, and the original display advertisement shown by AT&T all those years ago was. Banner advertisements show at the tops of websites, or on the sides. They’re composed of texts and images, for the most part, some being in short video formats or animated graphics.

Video Advertisements

With the popularity of online video media through sites like YouTube, video advertisements have become a wonderful way to engage with potential customers. Video ads also play a big part on social media platforms as well. Video advertisements are similar to commercials but can be more targeted than their television counterparts can be.

Interstitial Advertisements

Interstitial advertisements play a large part in the ads seen on mobile apps. These are similar to pop-up advertisements, as they appear when trying to navigate from site to site. Interstitial ads appear before being directed to the website or app page you’re trying to visit, and have to be closed out before viewing the intended destination.

Rich Media Advertisements

These display ads are fairly unique, as they allow users to interact with the advertisement. Rich media ads have the ability to incorporate video, audio, and clickable elements. Some are forms that are able to be filled out to sign up for newsletters or special offers.

How Are Display Advertisements Used?

Functionally, the above forms of display advertisements are used by websites and applications in one of three ways.

Site Placement Advertising

Site placement advertising is done after gathering data on your target audience, then choosing the best website to display your advertisements on correlating to that data. Most often, you’ll want to choose websites that are relevant to your target audience.

Contextual Advertising

Contextual advertising is similar to site placement advertising, but rather than using targeted data about your users, the choice is based on the website itself. When choosing to pursue contextual advertising, websites that are relevant to the product you’re trying to sell are chosen specifically. For example, if you’re attempting to sell gardening supplies, you’ll most likely want to advertise on gardening blogs.

Remarketing Advertising

Remarketing may be the most unique form of display advertising. Using cookies, remarketing advertising is executed after a user visits a webpage but doesn’t complete the intended goal of the page. An example of this would be visiting a webpage and intending to make a purchase, but leaving prior to making the purchase. Then, advertisements displaying the item you were about to purchase would begin to appear in your browser. It goes a long way to make sure that you purchase the item you were thinking of.

Is Display Advertising the Same as Native Advertising?

Typically, display advertising is used to describe any advertisements seen online that are “displayed” on a page. While this umbrella term is fairly relevant, it should exclude native advertising for a very specific reason. Display advertisements are made to stand out. They’re made to catch your attention in an entirely inorganic fashion, and will oftentimes clash with the aesthetic of the page that they are on. That’s the entire point of display advertisements; they stick out like a sore thumb so that you’ll look at them. Native advertisements, however, do not attempt to do this. Native advertisements are meant to blend in. While they may encompass the same forms of media, and circulate on the same websites, native advertisements do not want to stand out. In fact, they want to create as seamless an experience as possible. This is where they differ entirely from display advertisements, and the reason they should not be categorized together.

The Pros of Display Advertising

While display advertising may be the oldest form of digital advertising online, it is by no means an outdated form of advertising. Display advertising done right takes full advantage of all of the pros associated with it, and can lead to very successful ad campaigns .


One of the largest factors to take into consideration regarding display advertising is the potential reach of an ad campaign. Using services like the Google Display Network, display advertisements can reach millions of different users on millions of different websites.


When choosing to pursue display advertising, another advantage is the diversity associated with the ad formats available. Display advertising, in comparison with native advertising, allows for limitless designs and creativity since you are not looking to match the style of the website the advertisement is housed on.


Display advertisements allow for the measurement of engagement in most cases, and this data is invaluable to your business and its ad campaign. You can see how effective your advertisements are over time using figures such as clicks as well as conversions. Using these metrics you can create more pointed ad campaigns as time moves on.


Display ads are normally put on websites at the discretion of the business owner, with many services allowing you to choose from a number of categories for websites and their traffic that you think would best fit your product. Specifically, they can be placed on relevant websites based on subject, location, and even associated interests.

The Cons of Display Advertising

As with everything, the good must come with some bad, and display advertising is no exception to this. While the pros are exceptionally strong, the cons are fairly significant as well.

Ad Blockers

In recent years, the popularity of ad blockers has skyrocketed, and many users employ them when browsing the internet on their mobile phones or personal computers. Ad-blocking technology was developed to reduce the number of display advertisements seen when browsing and is the reason that native advertising has reached such popularity. Display ads are completely susceptible to ad blockers.

User Overlook

Even without ad blockers enabled, many users browsing websites will ignore ads entirely. This overlook can often be referred to as banner blindness. Many people don’t want to be subjected to harsh advertising and will ignore display ads almost entirely. Remarketing ads as well as rich media advertisements tend to escape banner blindness, as remarketing is very targeted towards individuals while rich media ads are interactive. This makes both forms of display advertising more engaging, and harder to ignore than banners and video ads.

Minimal Approach

Generally speaking, display advertisements are very minimal in comparison to other forms of advertisements, which can be their downfall. Without the ability to expand on the product or the company that they’re representing, users will have less to go on than they would with other ads. This can lead to lower engagement and interest in-display ads.

Should You Use Display Advertising?

Display advertising is one of the oldest and longest-running forms of online advertising for good reason. While other forms of advertising may create more general appeal, like native advertising, display advertising still has its place in the world of digital advertising. Though they typically result in fewer clicks and conversions, display ads have some of the furthest reach of all forms of digital advertising. Whether or not your ads are being clicked on, they are still present and reaching your audience, thus creating more awareness for your business. Display advertisements are still a very viable option in digital advertising and are a good option for any business , and should be utilized. Sources: What Is Display Advertising? What Are Display Ads? The Complete Guide What Is Display Advertising? A Beginner's Guide

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