Display Isn’t Dead. Just Look For The Pulse.

“Display is dead!”

It’s something you occasionally hear from digital marketers, but is it true? Does this type of advertising not play a role in the conversion process?

Display Advertising Matters

If a site visitor rarely clicks on a banner ad, then how exactly does this medium move the buyer down the conversion funnel?

A study published by Kireyev, Pauwels, and Gupta from Harvard University found that display ads make an invisible, yet important impact. As a result of tracking improvements, marketers believe that they can use quantifiable metrics to gauge campaign success. Looking at it superficially, you would think that if the click-through rate (CTR) and the attributed conversion rate are not up to par, the campaign should be deemed a failure. However, when you step back to examine the dynamics and the interconnectivity of multiple channel types, you can see how display plays a bigger role than the statistics of the display campaign would suggest.

Harvard researchers have found that display advertising leads to an increase in search volume, clicks, and ultimately conversions. However, because tracking does not give attribution credit, the conversion appears to come from the last click rather than the entire process the user has been exposed to, which would include display advertisement exposure.

Researchers also found that there is almost a two-week lag time between when the user was exposed to a display ad and when they actively started searching for that product or company. They also discovered that ad viewability was more strongly correlated with conversions than it was for clicks. If the ad was located below the fold or was displayed on a page with many other competitive ad positions, the campaign conversion stats suffered at a greater rate than the reported click stats.

Display Leads To Search

Yahoo Search & Display experts found that after users saw a personal finance display ad, search activity rose more than 200%.

This research proposes that although display advertising is more difficult to quantify than simple display metrics would suggest, there is firm data to support that display exposure will lead to a lift in a brand’s search traffic. 

Selecting the right publisher to run your display marketing is just as important as deciding to leverage search marketing together with other marketing channels to obtain maximum conversions. Be sure that the publisher is limiting the number of advertisements and sponsorships that may be seen on one page at any one time. Also, ask if all ad positions are above the fold, considering that ad viewability should be given great attention. The publisher should also be willing to work with advertisers to geotarget, cap impressions, and provide accurate and timely statistics.

Above all, make sure the publisher makes sense for your company or offer! Unless you are using behavioral display, the publisher’s content is of ultimate importance. Who is visiting this site and are they your target market? Picking the right publisher will make or break a campaign, but understanding the capabilities and priorities of the publisher will help protect and ramp up your ROI.

Use Display Advertising To Leverage Conversions

Although granular tracking may show decent user engagement for interactive banners, it’s imperative that advertisers consider display as just a piece of the big marketing puzzle. Clicks and last attributed conversion tracking may not scream that a campaign is a winner, but a well-targeted campaign with a respected publisher who puts all possible tools in place to ensure a client’s success is definitely a worthy contender for your advertising budget. 

Bob Fladung
Director of Advertising
INO.com, Inc.


Kireyev, P., Pauwels, K., & Gupta, S. “Do Display Ads Influence Search? Attribution and Dynamics in Online Advertising.” Harvard Working Papers, February 28, 2013.

Yahoo Search & Display. Atlas Digital Marketing Insight 2009.

Lipsman, A., “For Display Ads, Being Seen Matters More than Being Clicked” 4/24/12. ComScores.