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Display Advertising Research

Display advertising research is necessary for new campaigns being built from scratch, or when a new agency is taking over management of an existing campaign. Research covers five areas, which are reviewed here.

1. Target Audience

The most important factor in a display advertising campaign is an understanding of the target audience. Ads must be relevant to the user; otherwise, the ads will be ignored or may cause irritation, negatively affecting the brand. Creating user personas as an initial step in display advertising research is very useful. Personas are detailed descriptions of what an ideal target user looks like, including details such as age, gender, education, type of job, income, hobbies and interests.

2. Product / Service Differentiation

The display ad management agency must learn the features and benefits of the client's products and services, and how they are positioned in the marketplace. This phase of research produces an understanding of important product differentiators, which will eventually serve as focal points for creative ad development. Note the stress on important differentiators — this is key. Many display ads go south because they highlight product/service differentiators that don't really matter to customers.

3. Campaign Audit

When taking over an existing campaign, the new agency usually starts the display advertising research process with a thorough campaign audit, to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. The audit covers:

  • An inventory of display campaign types, such as contextual ads, site targeting/managed placements, and retargeting
  • Account settings
  • Campaign settings
  • Campaign structure
  • Ad group structure
  • Keywords (for contextual campaigns)
  • Ads — text and images
  • Destination pages
  • Tracking setup and processes

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4. Keyword Research

When creating a new contextual advertising campaign, keyword research is needed to determine on what types of websites ads will appear. When creating a keyword list, thinking about keywords related to content that would be on websites your ideal customers read is helpful. For example, for a PPC campaign, a Las Vegas hotel would target keywords such as "las vegas hotel." But for a contextual display ad campaign, target keywords would be phrases like "things to do in vegas" or something as general as "las vegas". For contextual campaigns, all keywords are considered broad match, so that Google will find websites loosely related to the keyword list.

5. Competitive Research

Reviewing competitor products and services is vital for display advertising research. Competitor ads should be assessed for offers, credibility, promotional offers, calls to action, imagery, and headlines. This helps the creative team — copywriters and designers — develop ads that outperform the competition. In addition to a review of ads, taking note of where competitor ads send traffic is also important. Does the landing page content reinforce the ad message? Does the landing page set up a conversion funnel? Is it persuasive? Again, these inputs are enormously helpful in guiding creative development.

Without research, display ad campaign strategy is reduced to guesswork and gut instinct — if the campaign is successful, it will be by accident, not design. On the other hand, systematic research enables the agency to formulate a campaign that hits the ground running with accurate keyword selection, solid creative work and an efficient management structure. Having these things in place provides the best foundation for a successful, ROI-producing campaign.

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