Making the Display Case

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of Internet display advertising are greatly exaggerated. This is especially true in local markets where advertisers, seeing a limit to what search can do, are embracing display advertising.

That’s a happy trend for local TV stations’ branded content sites, which depend on display for two-thirds of their online revenue. “Display is on a sharp rebound,” said Jon Swallen, senior vp of research for Kantar Media, which reported display gained 5 percent in first quarter this year to $2.2 billion.

TV stations have seen their online business surge 26 percent in Q1 over Q1 2009, per the Television Bureau of Advertising.

“Marketers hit a wall with search. When the efficiency starts to level off, they look to other ways to expand business, and that’s where display has come in,” said Eric Koepele, director of digital media sales for Hearst Television, which has seen display revenue grow by double-digit percentages this year.

“At the end of the day, marketers have to stand out. If there’s no brand awareness from search, they’re just like everyone else,” added Jon Paul Rexing, senior director of sales for

Another factor: A lot of local advertisers that didn’t have Web sites now do. “They have some place to send people,” said Tim Reynolds, director of interactive media for Meredith.

No longer just static words on a long, narrow banner, display ads have become much more sophisticated and creative. They’re interactive, dynamic and can embed video. For example, Meredith Broadcasting offers retailers a display ad with a built-in countdown to a sale. And an ad on ESPN’s year-old Web site for Old Style, the local and iconic Chicago beer, animates the local brew poured into a tall glass.

What is really going to kick display into high gear is monetizing display ads beyond the click. New server tracking tools used by Hearst correlate a visitor’s exposure to the advertiser’s display ad to a visit to the advertiser’s Web site within 30 days of seeing the ad. It’s the first time a media company has provided view-through data on the local level.

For one local advertiser, Des Moines-based City Wide, a heating and air conditioning company, view-through data showed 24 percent of those driven to the City Wide site didn’t click on the ad, but came to the City Wide site within 30 days of seeing the ad on the KCCI Web site. The difference between click-through and view-through was even more dramatic for Rug & Home, where nearly half the Web site visits on the Hearst NBC affiliate in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., DMA were from people who saw the ad, but didn’t click.

By monitoring both click-through and view-through data weekly, the advertiser was able to tweak creative, resulting in a bigger response lift. “Small changes in creative and layout brought a significant lift in response,” said Amy Phoenix, an independent online ad rep working with Hearst Television.

“As advertisers get more adept at using and measuring online media, there will be more demand for display,” said Hearst TV’s Koepele. “Click-through is only the tip of the iceberg.”