Held Hostage by Banner Ads: Break Free and Humanize Your Brand

It’s no surprise that digital display advertising has lost much of its clout in recent years. With most advertisers moving away from traditional banner ads towards native ads and sponsored content, display advertising now only represents 22.5 percent of the global online spend. One culprit for declining budgets could be click rates – the American Marketing Association has concluded that 30 percent of banner clicks are from bots. Furthermore, only 14 percent of real users intend to make a purchase. So with a real user reach of 70 percent and a best practice of 1 percent click-through-rate, that means only 0.009 percent of people reached might buy your product. Yikes. And if we’re not already effectively blind to display ads due to conscious ad avoidance, we sometimes literally are, with AdBlock plug-ins running rampant.

Look at your brand as if it’s a grand feast. Unless you only want the meat, you need a rainbow of side dishes, each catering to different tastes and vices. And while no true business venture is complete without advertising, which includes banner ads, it’s important to recognize that it’s not the main dish. The nature of ads is, for the most part, product-based, not brand-based, and they serve business objectives – like recognition, exposure and revenue – largely without considering customer needs. And after it’s all over, ads also don’t keep serving up leads after the budget is spent. They’re like a good Yorkshire pudding that you slaved to make and thoroughly enjoyed consuming but is merely a memory when the meal is done.

No Silos Allowed

At this point, you’re probably wondering, "If display advertising is all doom and gloom, why should I spend my money on it?" The answer is simple: it’s just one component, one ingredient in one dish in your integrated digital campaign. As Steve Forbes put it, "Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business," and a complete, integrated campaign – that is, one that spans media and tactics – is absolutely essential to projecting a coherent, consistent message to your target audience. But advertising is not your only asset.

You can choose to spend your time and budget chasing down the ever-evolving audience algorithm, fervently hoping they’ll notice you, or you can choose to interact with them and grow their interest and loyalty across channels. One of those options certainly sounds more appealing than the other. With the ultimate goal of any campaign being to build a sustainable audience of enthusiastic fans, you’re more likely to make more (and more meaningful) connections when you’ve put an identifiable human voice into your advertising efforts. And an added perk to developing your audience across media – from display advertising, to native, to social outreach – and inviting them to the feast? Your customers will still be glued when budgets shift because they can access you in more than one way. The Yorkshire pudding may be gone, but those mashed potatoes still look pretty delicious.

Transformation Tactics

So how do you break out of your banner ad rut to begin humanizing your brand? Above all else, you must put the customer and their needs and wants first. Your goal, for example, is to find someone to buy your widgets, while your customer’s goal is never, ever to find someone willing to advertise to them. They get enough of that without asking.

You must provide them with what they want and need. Publish articles that answer strategic questions they may have to get inside their heads. Engage with them on social media, responding to them and inviting them to reach out to you with initiatives like #FanPhotoFriday. Instructional videos, following up via email marketing – there are infinite ways you can make real, sustainable human connections with your audience that don’t require them to take off their super-glued ad blinders.

Get Connected

Yes, ads – including banner ads – absolutely have their place, but as one tool within a customer-centric campaign. And to get more life and a larger, more loyal audience out of said campaign, be sure your tactics include retargeting, sponsored content, native ads in healthy doses and new approaches. Because no matter how much you love Yorkshire pudding, the adage that you can have too much of a good thing can become all too real if you’re not careful.

Want to know more about developing an integrated digital campaign that will connect you with your customers? Reach out to the advertising vets at Woodruff. We’d be happy to help you create the ideal plan for your brand.