Distinguishing among Digital Ads

We were talking about a digital ad strategy for a client today, and I noticed for the first time that there really are three kinds of digital ads.

Adwords and other paid search ads let you talk to people who want what you have to offer. You’re selling wearable devices for monitoring anxiety? You get to talk directly to people who are looking for wearable devices to monitor their anxiety.

While you can do display ads in Adwords, text ads are highly effective, because you are offering people exactly what they want. People don’t have to be lured by your ad, because they actually want what you have to offer. They’ll make the extra effort and click through. But you also have to be knowledgeable about the way people search for your product. If the ads are shown to the wrong people, they’re worthless.

Facebook and other social ads are disruptive, so they’re more like traditional ads. They need to catch the eyes of people who aren’t specifically looking for them. Unlike traditional ads, these ads can be targeted much more specifically to people who are likely to be your customers, or to people who have behaved in ways that show an interest in your products.

Now, modern consumers avoid ads intentionally. We’ve developed ad blindness that causes us to ignore the sidebar ads, we use technology that lets us skip broadcast TV ads, we leave the room or change the channel if a radio ad intrudes on our attention. We don’t engage with ads. And few of us go to Facebook for product information.

But if we already have something in mind, we will notice relevant ads, just as the sound of our own name will stand out in a noisy airport. We’re ignoring the ads, but if a reader has been looking for a wearable device to help with anxiety, an ad for such a device will slice through the ad noise and he’ll check it out. So targeting social ads correctly and making them appealing to our customer base can pay off.

Display ads on other websites can be effective, from the point of view of brand awareness and conversions. If we are still trying to sell those anti-anxiety wearables and we have an ad at a website with a strong forum for people suffering anxiety, our chances of catching the eye of someone who has been thinking about anxiety are excellent. The more narrow your niche, the better your chances of success with this type of ad.

But, as Tim Walker from DOXA pointed out in today’s discussion, those ads have many layers. Your company’s board may feel that seeing your display ad in Forbes makes you look legit, whether or not anxiety sufferers are likely to be reading there. You might also catch the attention of a company that can support your efforts or a doctor who will point your device out to patients or an investor or an influencer in your space. The investment can be worthwhile in other ways, even if it doesn’t lead directly to purchases. In that case, a really memorable ad that showcases the brand is more important than a message that leads to conversions.

These differences should be taken into account when you’re planning your digital marketing strategy and when you’re developing your ads.

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