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An Intro to Programmatic Display Ads

Anyone familiar with Deebly has probably heard us talk about programmatic display ads. It took us an embarrassing amount of time to realize that, unless you’ve been working in marketing or advertising for the past decade, you probably don’t know what that means. We wrote this article in hopes of providing non-marketing folks with a basic understanding of what programmatic display ads are, and why they matter.

Programmatic Display Ads

Programmatic display ads (we’ll just call them “display ads” from here on) are the ads you see on a majority of websites. If you’ve ever visited a local or national news site, you’ve probably seen them sprinkled throughout the homepage among the articles and within the articles themselves.

For a quick example, go to your favorite local TV news station’s website. Here in Denver, we usually direct people to 9 News.

We had to make up our own example because the actual news sites are just a little too depressing…

Typically a display ad will be accompanied by a small piece of text or a small symbol indicating that it’s an ad. Try to find at least one on the homepage (you probably won’t even have to scroll), and then click one of the articles to see how display ads show up there.

Educational sites such as W3Schools, Ultimate Guitar, and even some unexpected sites like eBay also serve display ads. Many sites where the goal is to serve content rather than sell a product or service directly (eBay being an obvious exception) will serve display ads in some form or another. Display ads tend to have the least restrictions placed on them compared to other ad types, in terms of what can be advertised and where the ads can be served.

Display ads are billed based on impressions. This means that instead of being charged for each individual click on an ad, as is typical of the rather obviously named pay-per-click ads (more on those later), the advertiser is charged for each “impression,” which means each time the ad is loaded on a page and is therefore seen by a user.

Typically each individual impression is charged a fraction of a cent, so when a dollar or more is spent on advertising, it usually amounts to hundreds or even thousands of sets of eyes on a given ad. Because most of the time each impression costs less than a penny, many ad platforms display what is called a CPM or Cost Per Thousand impressions (the ‘M’ stands for “mille” which is Latin for one thousand). This is different than the way we report at Deebly. Because we believe that each impression matters, we report the cost per individual impression.

Deebly believes it’s not just first impressions that matter

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a programmatic display ad is, this might be a good time for you to call it good with this article and get started running some ads for your site. We recommend using the Deebly Platform as the easiest way to do so. However, if you want to keep diving down the advertising rabbit hole, read on to learn more about other ad types and how they differ from display ads.

See what we did there?

Pay-Per-Click Ads

As previously mentioned, pay-per-click (PPC) ads are ads that charge based on the number of clicks on the ad, rather than the number of impressions. These are almost exclusively employed by search engines such as Google and can usually be seen when you search for a term, and the first few results say “Ad” next to them.

Ooh, this ad probably goes to a really good looking site!

PPC ads are often more expensive to serve than display ads, but the tradeoff is that the traffic tends to be higher intent (target people with higher intent to purchase) since they aren’t served the ad unless they actively search for a term that triggers the ad.

Google and most other search engines are what are referred to as “walled gardens” in that they have their own inventory (Google PPC ads only serve on Google search), not other sites, and their own rules and restrictions. They heavily limit what types of products and services can be advertised on their site and what keywords can be used to drive traffic. This prevents it from being a viable channel for products like CBD or cannabis.

Social Ads

Another type of walled garden ecosystem is social advertising. Social ads are served on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Each social media platform maintains its own ad inventory, and running ads on Facebook won’t cause them to show up on Twitter. This is different from programmatic display advertising where the same set of ads will show up on multiple unrelated websites at once. Social ads also tend to carry the same, or often even more stringent, restrictions than PPC ads. Especially after a certain high-profile CEO had to testify before the US Congress…

We had a screenshot for this one, but then our account got suspended…

Native Ads

Native ads tend to be served on many of the same sites as display ads, but they have a twist. Native ads are deliberately designed to look like articles that lead to educational or entertaining content. These ads tend to get a lot of clicks, but they are some of the lowest-intent traffic available. In other words, people will click on these ads wanting to read the article or consume the content behind the ad, but they usually have no intention of buying whatsoever.

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Other Ads

There are even more types of ads, such as pre-roll video ads on YouTube, video ads on streaming platforms like Hulu, audio ads that run on platforms like Spotify, and many others. However, those are so different from display ads that they aren’t worth discussing in this article.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what kind of ads you can run on the Deebly platform, as well as advertising in general. If you need help getting started, feel free to grab a meeting with us, or just dive right in and explore the platform. We can’t wait to see what ads you use to drive traffic to your website!

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