The suggestion in last week's AdWeek article by Brian Morrissey, "Can Search's 'Beautiful System' Extend to Display?," is that all any advertising exchange or ad network needs is a self-service system which allows advertisers to easily create graphical display ads and, poof!, you've got nearly unlimited inventory available with search advertising-like revenue potential.
Even the oft-quoted Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence gets on the bandwagon saying, "There isn't a reason that (self-service ad platforms) couldn't happen to display, except that display is more involved," said Greg Sterling, an industry analyst with Sterling Intelligence. "There's layers of complexity for display that haven't existed in the search marketplace." This is the wrong direction - it's not about making pretty banners, it's about the analytics that show ROI.
As we've said before, for Display to truly become a powerful tool and scale revenues for web publishers - analytics which can be tied across multiple campaigns and user activity will be necessary to prove Display is worth investment for advertisers.
Clearly, Display is not Search. Search advertising is about reaching the user at a clear moment of intent. Display is about creating interest that may not be there to begin with and then driving it to a moment of intent and interest that may ultimately involve Search.
It's amazing to us how often writers for top mainstream advertising publications can get online advertising tactics and strategy so wrong. It goes to show, once again, how early we are in online advertising, too. More savvy reporting will occur when there's more skin (revenues) in the online advertising game - and that's just a matter of time. In this article's case, it appears that the MySpace self-serve example provided a compelling but unwittingly biased "hook" for the writer. MySpace needs to make revs - why wouldn't they say that their new DIY (do-it-yourself) tool will be the answer?
It also appears from the AdWeek article that local advertisers are the key to self-serve - just let people geo-target with a DIY display self-serve platform and that oughta do it. It will help some advertisers, pubs and ad technology companies (AdReady appears to be well-positioned), but if you're a little advertiser, you still need ROI and that's a tough slog without robust analytics. Self-serve and its users demand direct response (DR) results. A branding campaign is likely not an option.
One other note: Google's AdSense network has been running text ad display for years. Text as display is effective partially because graphical is intuitively seen by the user as an ad and text less so.