Display Ads That Deliver Real Value, Return Real Profits

by Mike Tyler | April 13, 2015

Consider this thoguht experiment:

Say that I run a company called “Mike’s T-shirts.”

We are having a sale today. I might create a banner advertisment that says, “Mike’s T-shirts is Having a Sale Today. 20% OFF EVERYTHING!”

So far, so good, right?

Well, not exactly. Unless a given customer needs a shirt, there is no value for them in this communication. Reading it is a waste of time and they will ignore the advertisement and carry on, perhaps never thinking again about my T-shirt store. (Which is a shame because we presumably make awesome shirts!)

The approach above is the way in which a lot of display advertising operates: attempting to align the offer with the value. It works sometimes. It doesn’t work a lot of the time too. Anyone who doesn’t find value in the offer isn’t going to find value in the communication.

What I’m going to show you in this post is two-fold:

  1. Display ads don’t have to be so hit-and-miss as described above
  2. How you can instead deliver real (see: objective) value with your display advertisements.

What Can Native Show DIsplay About “real” Value?

Following from the above example, say Mike’s T-shirts took out a native placement on a popular blog that covers the latest in T-shirt fashion. The blog post might be just that — the latest in t-shirt fashion. This type of information is much more valuable. It is a “real” value in the sense that generally everyone will see it as beneficial.

With the native campaign, I would be paying for the chance to be the provider of guaranteed value, as opposed to some offer, which may or may not hold value depending on who sees it.

The secret that native can show traditional display is how to play the long game. That is, provide real value that everyone benefits from, and you will eventually get real returns. 

This is not a call to abandon making offers, as initiating the psychology of buying is necessary, but if you provide some “real” value first, people will generally be a lot more receptive. After all, if you can trust a brand for information, you can likely trust in its product, event, or service.

So with that said, let’s take a look at banners and lightboxes to see if we can inject real value into those display advertisement formats.


Creating Display Ads with Real Value

So Mike’s T-shirts has its display advertising strategy: provide the value necessary to get in close with the reader and spend time with them. Cool, but how do we accomplish that task with banners and lightboxes?

Let’s take a look at the answer.

1. Banners

Let’s face it, banners are a small canvas on which to work, and therefore supplying value is a challenge. Use these tips to make use of the space you have.

  • Statistics — are a very succinct way to deliver information. The succictness benefits space considerations, and being informative has broad appeal of perceived value (ie: most people like to learn things). Mike’s T-shirts might take out banner advertisement with the following copy:

“The right shirt can make you 20% more attractive to the opposite sex. Did we mention our T-shirts are 20% off today?”

  • Use .gif or .svg — multiply your canvas into canvases with .gif format. Use these extra visual instances to tell a story. Same as above. Statistics work well here. If you have an audience using modern browsers, you can play around with .svg, which provide more flexibility than .gif. (as .svg are programmable.) (See a cool banner example here that uses the .svg format. )

2. Lightboxes

Lightboxes are basically a polite popup. You have a lot more space than with banners, but only that space; lightboxes are their own context. Here are two things to consider.

  • Slideshows — A slideshow can work if paired with the right “value-added” content. Instagram’s new carousel ads, while not hoisted in a lightbox, are still a great example of this format where you lead with value elements, and then present a call-to-action to follow it up.
  • Games — Lightboxes make a good context for a game, people by-and-large like games because they are entertaining, and entertainment is near-universally a valued thing. Lead with the game, and follow up with the offer.

Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash

How to Keep it Real – Valuable

The objective and subjective valuation on knowledge or entertainment is not the easiest argument to follow. Let’s walk through what we have learned in this post in point form to wrap things up:

  • The customer value and the offer can be the same thing, or they can be different.
  • Native content is an example of the value and offer being different — and it works
  • When you deliver real value,  you give your brand authority, enabling greater returns.
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