In 2005 I had a digital marketing agency and we were buying display ads, email sends and paid search for FedEx Kinko’s. I still remember the anxiety I felt when we presented results from our media buys. Paid search of course looked great, with a very low Cost Per Action. Email produced decent results but clearly took a back seat to search.
The media stepchild we call display accounted for a majority of the spend, and appeared to be a complete waste of money with a CPA that was 10x that of search. Naturally my client asked the question: “why on earth are we spending money on display when search is so much more efficient?”
My answer was that:
- we were buying all the search inventory that was available, and
- we believed the investment in display was creating awareness that was driving the growth in leads from search.
We cited the increase in clicks and leads from search that correlated with the growth in display advertising, but lacked hard data to support our thesis. Fortunately the client agreed, but he also challenged me to do a better job of justifying the media plan. We did what we could at that time and found that 20% of converters from paid search had previously clicked on a display ad. But that was the extent to which we could attribute credit for awareness created by display ads.