Display Ads and Brand Awareness

March 21, 2019

With search advertising you are using text ads to advertise to people actively searching for a product or service, whereas with display advertising you are advertising using imagery/video on a network of websites that relate to your brand or audience. Plain and simple, these are two extremely different forms of advertising, so as you can imagine they offer different approaches to promoting growth. In this article, we will focus primarily on display ads and their ability to create brand awareness. 

In a brief overview, there are clear differences in performance between the search and display advertising across all industries. Here’s an example from Wordstream’s Industry Benchmarks report which includes the differences between Search and Display:


CTR 3.17%

CPC $2.69


CPA $48.96


CTR 0.46%

CPC $0.63


CPA $75.51

Generally speaking, display advertising falls short in just about every category besides cost-per-click and a substantial increase in impressions over search. However, if you judge a fish’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. As cliché as this quote is, it holds some truth when comparing display vs search advertising.

The Power of Display Ads

If you were to solely invest in search advertising simply because the CPA or conversion rates are better no one would blame you, but in doing so you are ignoring a network that reaches over 2 million websites, accounting for over 90% of internet traffic at a global scale. When you put it that way, it’s pretty hard to ignore right?

Should you ever launch a display ad, you’ll quickly notice the sheer amount of impressions it has over search campaigns. In those vast amounts of impressions lies the power of display advertising: brand awareness. Oddly enough, on the Google Display Network you don’t even have to pay for the exponentially greater amount of impressions; advertisers can choose to only pay on a cost-per-click basis. Therefore, a display ad could be served in literally millions of places, but you would only have to pay for the ones that were clicked on. The same cannot be said for traditional forms of media buying. For example, when purchasing a time slot to advertise over a radio broadcast, you pay a fixed rate for that time slot regardless of the amount of listeners during the time of your ad. Evidently, display ads are much more cost-effective as a platform to grow brand awareness.

At any stage of development, brand awareness is vital to any business whether things are just getting started or an identity has been established on the market for years. In the beginning stages of any business, brand awareness is the first step towards the acquisition of a new customer. Afterall, if a consumer isn’t even aware you exist, how would your brand be considered as an option? On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a company already has an established track record of success brand awareness can be used to positively influence the sale of other products or services, or assist conversions on other channels, a behavior otherwise known as the halo effect.

The Halo Effect

The halo effect can occur on multiple levels, but in this specific scenario it is powered by brand awareness. For instance, a company that is well renowned for its high quality backpacks could use the halo effect to expand into a similar market of luggage bags. Consumers would recognize the brand and associate the new line of products with prior success in backpacks. Before researching further, these consumers would already have a positive predisposition of the new line of luggage bags.

Additionally, the halo effect can take root in advertising across multiple channels, maximizing exposure a consumer receives. Exposure itself creates positive feelings towards the subject, regardless if the consumer is actively paying attention or not – this ideology was formulated in Robert Zajonc’s study of mere exposure.

Together, display and search advertising can be used in tandem to capitalize on this involuntary, human response by increasing exposure on multiple fronts.

Display Ads – A Timeline

On Google’s Display Network (GDN) your display ads can be targeted to only show when the content is relevant. For example, someone on YouTube watching videos about tips on backpacking could be shown a display ad for your outdoor brand. In a perfect world, said person would click on your ad, then navigate to your beautifully designed landing page where they would proceed to make a purchase from your brand. Most likely however, they will close the ad and continue watching the video.

Lucky for us, our display narrative does not end with a simple click of an “x.” Perhaps after watching a few more videos, that person is more inclined and ready to make their first purchase in backpacking gear. They begin their search with your brand, since of course, they just saw your ad. All in all, not taking your traditional (ad → landing page → conversion) path, but still ending in a conversion for you nonetheless. In fact, did you know 43% of new customers purchase something they saw in a YouTube ad? Certainly all of those purchases aren’t occurring immediately after clicking on the ad, which shows the importance of brand awareness, the halo effect, and the role that display ads can serve for your marketing program as a whole.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

If you were tracking conversions with last-click attribution, a sale would be credited entirely to the “last click” a person made before making their purchase. This form of attribution can extremely undervalue effective forms of advertising. Hypothetically, no credit is given to a display ad that could be heavily influencing consumers to search for your brand – a very real situation any brand could be in since viewers in America are 40% more likely to conduct a search query on an advertiser trademark after seeing a display ad.

Instead, you could use data-driven attribution to incorporate data across all Google Products you’ve linked into Google Analytics to give a deeper insight into what exactly influenced these conversions. Across a large pool of data, you would be able to see your Top Conversion Paths to determine exactly how much or how little specific marketing efforts played into generating conversions. With this approach, you can rest easy knowing that although your display ads may not directly be resulting in click-through conversions, they still play an essential step in the customer journey.