Why You Shouldn’t Waste Your Money on Online Display Ads

Display ads are least likely to be seen and have the lowest return on investment of any other digital advertising tactic.

Display advertising has suffered some damning news in recent years. From large amounts of bot traffic to shady practices, display advertising gets a very bad rap. Taking this information collectively could indicate that the state of the display advertising market is even worse than we thought, and possibly rife with fraud.

The biggest issues, according to Bob Hoffman, retired CEO and chairman of Hoffman/Lewis Advertising:

  1. One-half, or more, of paid online display ads never appear in front of humans.
  2. Middleman agencies have been receiving kickbacks for traffic “volume discounts” based on fraudulent ad impressions.
  3. Ad networks and publishers knowingly trade bot traffic because it earns money for both, but at the expense of the clients.

MediaPost cofounder Reid Tatoris estimates that fewer than 10 percent of display ads will ever be seen:

We start with the notion that only 15 [percent] of impressions ever have the possibility to be seen by a real person. Then, factor in that 54 [percent] of ads are not viewable (and we already discussed how flawed that metric is), and you’re left with only 8 [percent] of impressions that have the opportunity to be seen by a real person … That’s an unbelievable amount of waste in an industry where metrics are a major selling point.

Marketers have been fighting back through improved technology, or combined efforts such as the Trustworthy Accountability Group. Samuel Scott, director of marketing and communications at Logz.io, has some suggestions for marketers, including demanding full disclosure from advertising partners and abandoning cost-per-impression campaigns until the market becomes more honest.

Scott recommended using ad-fraud-detection software, blocking countries known to provide bot views and fraudulent clicks and, perhaps most important, running manual campaigns. Manual campaigns that focus on specific audiences and don’t rely on nebulous campaigns are probably the best choice given the current display ad environment. There’s a good reason why alternative marketing methods are on the rise.

Readers: What have your experiences been like with display ads?


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.