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Display advertising may be the red headed stepchild of digital advertising, but brands and marketers are bullish that it is poised to grow in the next few years.

According to the panelists at Fixing Advertising in New York this week, there's a simple reason for that: display has failed to make much progress from the basic premises of traditional advertising.

The panelists were all posed a now familiar question: where are we in the evolution of online marketing?

According to John Aizen, COO of Dapper:

"We've barely innovated in 16 years. The web has changed a lot, but display is certainly in its earliest phases."

Other speakers estimated that display has made some progress recently, even though there is a lot of room left for growth. As Ramsey McGrory, Yahoo's VP of advertising platforms, put it: "we're in the gangly teenager phase."

But Aizen says that display advertising isn't pulling its weight:

"At the end of the day, online advertising isn't really part of our web experience. At best we ignore it. From my perspective, fixing advertising really means changing that."

Display advertising certainly stands to improve the consumer experience. 16 years into the evolution of the internet, the advertising industry is struggling to recover from the recession and find its role going forward. And the majority of display advertising has not drastically improved on traditional media ads. Except for the fact that many large brands still prefer the former. Michael Rubenstein, president of AppNexus, joked:

"We thought we were going to fix advertising, we ruined it."

However, digital has the benefit of being more easily tracked and providing brands with more information on their customers than ever before. The panelists agreed that data sharing will be a growth industry for online advertising in the near future. Says Emily Scott, Director of Online Marketing at Kayak:

"At the end of the day, I want to be able to learn from a campaign, whether it's successful or not."

Brands and marketers are forever thirsting for data. According to Rubenstein:

"Once you start exposing a little bit of the data, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We're never going to be at a place where everyone can fully understand all the data, but it helps."

One thing that will likely be on the horizon for display advertising is consolidation. The complaint forever heard from brands is that display lacks scale. Whereas one large brand dominates (and organizes) most search ads online, the display market is littered with companies offering different optimization strategies and inventory. That is not likely to change. But perhaps not in the near future. Says Rubenstein:

"I think it's going to get much more complicated before it gets less complicated."

Meghan Keane

Published 9 June, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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