Display advertising

Display advertising is advertising on websites. It includes many different formats and contains items such as text, images, flash, video, and audio.[1] The main purpose of display advertising is to deliver general advertisements and brand messages to site visitors.[2]

According to eMarketer, Facebook and Twitter will take 33% of display ad spending market share by 2017.[3] Also, desktop display advertising has eclipsed search ad buying in 2014, with mobile ad spending to overtake display in 2015.[4]


Since the early 90 's, the advent of the Internet has completely changed the way people relate to advertisements. As computers prices decreased, online content became accessible to a large portion of the world's population.[5] This change has modified the way people are exposed to media and advertising and has led to the creation of online channels through which advertisements can reach users.[6]

The first type of relationship between a website and an advertiser was a straightforward, direct partnership. This partnership model implies that the advertiser promoting a product or service pays the website (also known as a publisher) directly for a certain amount of ad impressions. As time went on, publishers began creating thousands of websites, leading to millions of pages with unsold ad space. This gave rise to a new set of companies called Ad Networks.[7] The ad network acted as a broker, buying unsold ad space from multiple publishers and packaged them into audiences to be sold to advertisers. This second wave of advertiser-publisher relationships rapidly gained popularity as it was convenient and useful for buyers who often found themselves paying a lower price yet receiving enhanced targeting capabilities through ad networks.

The third and most recent major development that shaped the advertiser-publisher ecosystem started occurring in the late 2000s when widespread adoption of RTB (real time bidding) technology took place. Also referred to as programmatic bidding, RTB allowed companies representing buyers and sellers to bid on the price to show an ad to a user every time a banner ad is loading. When a page loads during a user visit, there are thousands of bids occurring from advertisers to serve an ad to that user, based on each company's individual algorithms. With this most recent change in the industry, more and more ads are being sold on a single-impression basis, as opposed to in bulk purchases.

First online advertisement

The birthday of the first banner display on the World Wide Web was on the 27th October 1994. It appeared on HotWired, the first commercial web magazine.[8]

The COCONET online service had graphical online banner ads starting in 1988 in San Diego, California.

The PRODIGY service, launched also in 1988, had banner ads as well.

Importance of formats of display ads

Two students of the "Amsterdam school of Communication Research ASCor" have run studies about the audience reactions to different display advertising formats. In particular, they took into consideration two different types of format (sponsored content and banner advertising) to demonstrate that people react and perceive formats in different ways, positive and negative.[9] For this reason, it is important to choose the right format because it will help to make the most of the medium. It is also possible to add:

To help to better select the right format for the type of ad, Interactive Advertising Bureau has realized a Display Standard Ad Unit Portfolio that works as a guideline that can be followed by the creatives.[11]

Typical web banner, sized 468×60 pixels.

Who works behind display ads

Accounts department

The accounts department meet with the client to define campaign goals and translate those goals into a creative brief to be forwarded to the creative department.

Creative department

The role of the creatives is to give a shape to an ad. They have to find the idea and the most efficient way to push the customer to buy a product or a service. Imagination and innovation are required to develop and to present an advertisement.[12]

Media planner

People have to test in which way the user experiences all the information of a data visualization. For this reason, they have to study the users' response to sounds, image, and motion. They have to be aware of everything that is digitally consumed, to know all the newest technologies and media solutions, and to help all the other departments to find the best way to reach the object's campaign.

Tools that a media planner uses to buy display advertising include the Google Adwords Display Planner, Quantcast, ComScore, SimilarWeb, Thalamus, Compete, MOAT, and competitive intelligence tools like Adbeat and WhatRunsWhere.

Ad server

The ad server helps manage display advertisements. It is an advertising technology (ad tech) tool that, throughout a platform, administrates the ads and their distribution. It is basically a service or technology for a company that takes care of all the ad campaign programs and by receiving the ad files it is able to allocate them in different websites.[13] The ad server is responsible for things as/ the dates by which the campaign has to run on a website; the rapidity in which an ad as to be spread and where (geographic location targeting, language targeting.. ); controlling that an ad is not overseen by a user by limiting the number of visualisations; proposing an ad on past behaviour targeting.

There are different types of ad servers. There is an ad server for publishers that helps them to launch a new ad on a website by listing the highest ads' price on its and to follow the ad's growth by registering how many users it has reached. There is an ad server for advertisers that helps them by sending the ads in the form of HTML codes to each publisher. In this way, it is possible to open the ad in every moment and make changes of frequency for example, at all times. Lastly, there is an ad server for ad networks that provides information as in which network the publisher is registering an income and which is the daily revenue.


  1. "Display Advertising". Marketing Land. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  2. "Display advertising - Guide". Internet Advertising Bureau. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  3. Buying, Media. "Facebook and Twitter Will Take 33% Share of US Digital Display Market by 2017". eMarketer. eMarketer. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. Buying, Media. "Mobile to Account for More than Half of Digital Ad Spending in 2015". eMarketer. eMarketer. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  5. "Display advertising - Guide". Internet Advertising Bureau. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  6. Azimi, Javad; Zhang, Ruofei; Zhou, Yang; Navalpakkam, Vidhya; Mao, Jianchang; Fern, Xiaoli. "The Impact of Visual Appearance on User Response in Online Display Advertising". arXiv:1202.2158Freely accessible.
  7. "IAB Evolution Of Display Advertising". Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  8. D'Angelo, Frank. "Happy Birthday, Digital Advertising!". Advertising Age. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  9. Tutaj, Karolina; Van Reijmersdal, Eva. "Effects of online advertising format and persuasion knowledge on audience reactions". Taylor & Francis Online. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  10. "Display advertising - Guide". Internet Advertising Bureau. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  11. "IAB Display Advertising Guidelines". IAB. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  12. "Display advertising - Guide". Internet Advertising Bureau. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  13. "Display advertising - Guide". Internet Advertising Bureau. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
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