The role of display advertising in an inbound marketing world: what makes a brand?

J-P De Clerck looks at the role of display ads in the inbound marketing and social media era. Please share your thoughts.

Next month, IAB Europe organizes its annual Interact Congress, this time in Barcelona. As you know, the IAB, in Europe at least, is predominantly about interactive advertising (yes, it’s in the name of the organization).

For a few years, I’ve been posting now and then on the blog of the event and, after a break, I started again this year. But what was I going to write about, especially in regard to the more traditional forms of interactive advertising like display ads and even search engine ads (do you still spend PPC budgets on AdWords? I rarely do, CPL too high). What is, in  fact, the role of online advertising, and more specifically, display advertising in a world where inbound marketing increasingly rules?

So this is what I wrote about the issue in a really quick post. 

There are differences between B2B and B2C businesses but B2B companies are catching up very fast in the inbound marketing space and inbound is growing year after year.

What is outbound marketing? In a nutshell: the campaigns and marketing activities are ‘pushed’ to the people and are often interruptive. What is inbound marketing? Well, the opposite.

Content marketing, SEO, blog marketing and social media marketing are forms of inbound marketing. Events, call center actions, direct mailings and TV ads are forms of outbound marketing.

Email marketing/advertising is difficult to categorize. It’s a bit of both. After all, the recipient gives his permission. And at the same time there is an evolution towards a more conversational and valuable focus on the recipient. But, despite all this and the fact that email marketing has found a strong companion in social media, there is a broadcasting aspect as well.

When do display ads contribute to the brand experience?

Which leads me to the big question: what about display advertising? In a way, display ads allow people to find you. That’s a bit inbound. They do have an impact on branding. But they are often intrusive. That’s outbound. Can I add that they are also still very often without value for the people that should see them, being you and me?

However, it’s not really about the formats. It’s about what they contain: the story, the promise and the content.

Whatever the definition: if display ad campaigns don’t engage the people that see them, use intrusive formats and are not set up in function of the needs and wants of people, in the formats and circumstances that are relevant and enabling people to get something out of them or what they promise, they fail.

Customer-centricity is key in everything we do. The same goes for display ads. If they simply are about pushing your products and services or about one-way branding, they are not perceived as valuable.

If they are used to offer something that your ‘target group’ seeks (fun, relevant content, a paper, interaction, etc.) they will lead to a positive brand experience.

Your brand is not what you want it to be. It’s what people make it: the people in your company and the people in the influence sphere of your online brand.

People make a brand

Give your brand a face and value beyond the brand itself. Let go of your brand, and it will get stronger than ever. In display ads as well. The value is in reputation and thus the value you put into relationships. With people, as people.

Forget the clicks: impress, surprise, engage and touch

Display ads should engage people and get them talking or taking action. No, this does not mean display ads are about clicks (alone), on the contrary, if you want clicks you don’t want display ads (of course, except if you go for a CPC model, and then again…).

Engagement and interaction are also about word-of-mouth, interacting with the creatives themselves and being surprised, impressed and touched. Display ads can do that. If you dare to let go more of your brand.

Again, your brand is not what you want it to be, so don’t try to “position” yourself via a display ad, in fact forget positioning completely (sorry, Al Ries and Jack Trout, but it is what it is). Your brand is what you get when you involve people, in all layers of the ecosystem that determines the value of your online brand.

I would love to hear what you think, especially if you’re a brand marketer or a display advertising “believer” (for the record: I am more a mix of a content marketer, online brand builder, conversion- and result-driven marketer and social media marketer, although I do know and understand the power of a brand).

J-P De Clerck is a
former online publisher, experienced interactive marketer and serial
blogger. He’s a 360° thinker and believes in people, peer-to-peer
and the power of content. He spends his spare time writing,
doing stuff with the kids and experimenting. You can connect with him via Twitter or visit his new blog conversationspaces here.

Bookmark and Share

Join me on Twitter

Join me on Facebook

Join me in the Social Marketing Forum

Subscribe to the newsletter