The ROI debate – Display Advertising Vs Alternative Online Marketing Techniques


I’ve been reading a lot this week firstly at Google, and then over at Econsultancy about Double Click. It’s been roughly three years since Google bought Double Click and in that time Google have been slowly but surely growing the Double Click platform, with new customers, and new service offerings.

Brand Awareness
According to Google, display advertising spends among their largest 1000 clients increased by 75% in the past year. This is quite incredible growth but let’s try and keep this growth in context. Double Click’s 1000 largest clients are going to be the household names that already have huge customer bases, and will quite happily put money aside for things like brand awareness, or exposure. This is a world where impressions have a value (however fluffy that might be), and justifying the spend is much easier.

Those of you that know me well (in fact, even those that just read the paragraph above!) will probably know that display advertising is something I’m not keen on. My entire life in digital, from day 1, has been about ROI. In my experience, display advertising has never given me anything near the ROI that I’ve come to know and love from other online marketing activity.

So what about SME?
Google’s impressive growth stats above don’t include how their smaller clients are doing, and I imagine that I know the reason why.

I’ve always done a lot of work with small and medium sized businesses and in these situations, the business often has a very tight hold on the purse strings. Especially over the last year or so, where the economic climate has had companies intimidated when spending any money.

In these situations where every penny of marketing budget needs to be accounted for, investing in the traditional forms of display advertising is surely the wrong thing to do. Focussing budgets on targeted search campaigns, cleverly segmented email marketing, and CPA based affiliate marketing will generate much more, than burning cash on impressions.

New options
Of course, I’m all about driving more sales and revenue through my client’s websites and it’s great to see innovation in the display arena in recent times, with things like re-targeting, and Double Click’s AdExchange making positive changes to the channel.

The question for me remains, is it ever going to be as effective as other online marketing channels at delivering ROI?

For me, I doubt it… but hey, I’m willing to be proven wrong!

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