According to the recent IAB and PwC study, in 2010 display grew by 27% and search by 8%. If you have been following the growth of display and the rise of DSPs (demand-side platforms) you are no doubt aware that growth has been fuelled by RTB (real-time bidding).

Its growth and similarities are closely aligned to ‘traditional’ search bid management techniques. This is great news for the display industry and highlights great opportunities for the search marketer.

However, are search marketers grasping this opportunity, and do marketers and agencies really understand the new display environment?

Technology has been a huge driver of display growth. However, technology alone does not guarantee success. Currently there is a huge knowledge gap that needs to be addressed urgently in order for display growth to flourish at it should.

Whilst search and display marketers argue about who should own this growth area, the forward thinking companies are forming biddable media departments, educating themselves and clients on the new display ecosystem, and aligning the technical and human capital assets in unison.

In my last article I highlighted key drivers of growth relating to data, inventory, scalability and data insight.

Today I feel the need to focus on factors that will fuel display adoption.


Attribution data is the glue that helps piece together the search, display and digital marketing jigsaw.

How you analyse, use and attribute data value is key to managing and optimising display and digital spend. What's more, how you use your data and understand the user is pivotal for audience targeting, retargeting, and search optimisation success.

What data you factor in as past media performance, as well as audience intent data, allows you to better understand campaign results and return on ad spend. This enables real insight into behaviour and allows the retargeting of users across a multitude of platforms.

How you attribute display's role in the purchase cycle and allocate credit to multiple touch points is crucial. However, it’s just as important to understand and attribute value to the display data that you have.

Understanding the consumer journey on and offsite and assigning value to different segments of data is essential.

Knowledge and understanding

According to IAB and IASH research in 2010, nearly half of UK agencies (42.5%) will be spending more on DSPs, while 54.2% will spend more on ad exchanges.

The same research by the IAB and IASH in 2010 also revealed that for more than 35% of agencies, a lack of understanding of technology around ad exchanges and DSPs is a major challenge.

Maybe I am being a little creative with the research and figures but... 82.4% of agencies plan to spend more on display via DSPs but admit knowledge is a major challenge. Hopefully you get my point...

As more and more agencies and advertisers trend towards purchasing an optimising their media rather than third party ad networks it is vital that they firstly understand the display environment. Experience is essential.

It takes a lot of time and experience to understand how each network works, audience buying, and multiple exchanges like SSPs, DSPs, DSPPs: acronym city.

In Europe alone there are at least six different platforms to understand, ad exchanges such as Right Media and DoubleClick, DSPPs such as AppNexus, and yield optimizers such as Admeld, PubMatic, and Rubicon. 

It's commonly accepted that display technology and DSPs need to be self service, but perhaps lack of knowledge (getting up to speed with US adoption) suggests that full service solutions or ‘consultancy’ services have a very important part to play in this market. In order to venture into display you need to understand display.

Whilst it is true that search marketers are in a good position to help manage display due to RTB and its search centric routes, are search marketers truly aware of the display ecosystem and the amazing potential it provides? Maybe they need to change their focus a little...


Regulation is a key issue and this needs to be supported by marketers, agencies, and advertisers alike. More involvement with organizations like the IAB should become a necessity rather than an additional option.

The debate over behavioural targeting and European laws regarding ‘explicit consent’ continues to intensify. Marketers, agencies and advertisers need to collectively address this and work with the trade bodies, such as the IAB, on self regulation initiatives.

I was lucky enough to attend RIMC recently (Reykjavik Internet Marketing Conference) and talk to Alain Johnson, President of the IAB Europe. My key takeaway was that collectively all digital marketers need to get together and help educate users on cookie legislation to ensure the future stays in our hands.

As a community we all need to educate ourselves, clients, and ultimately the consumer about cookie legislation. We need to be creative and make sure users understand the pros and cons of cookie and privacy legislation.


Display's number one asset is the quality of the data. Offering a layer of service and focus on attribution will differentiate you from your competitors in a display and search environment.

Experience of display and biddable media is essential for uptake in RTB and DSP buys. The consumer (privacy) and the role of human capital (understanding display) are key to success and widespread adoption.

I have been to several conferences recently and have seen half full rooms on search and display topics. This concerns me.

  • Why are search marketers not more interested when the stats are telling them to align themselves with display?
  • Maybe people will begin to think that display marketers (not search marketers) will lead the way if search marketers are not interested?

27% display growth (fuelled by search centric RTB) and 8% search growth, can that be any clearer? Align yourselves now!


Published 30 March, 2011 by Andy Betts

Andy Betts is a digital marketing strategist working with agencies and direct advertisers. He blogs here, and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn

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Comments (4)


Li Evans

Over the last few months our clients are requesting display more often and our research also points to this channel as being effective for them. However, helping them to understand the platforms is definitely the biggest hurdle we tackle, not 'getting them to buy in' (that's the easy part).

What I find more curious though is what seems to be this swinging pendulum, from PPC over to display. There was a time where PPC was king, but lately, at least with our U.S. clients, we've been seeing a slight decline with plain txt PPC ads. Add some display factors into the ad - photos or video - and the ads skyrocket.

Online marketers not only need to get up to speed on the changing environment of what distracts and pulls in searchers or website visitors, they also need to understand all of these platforms and how they affect their clients' over all success. From how re-targeting works to the impact of these privacy laws, it's a lot for just one or two SEO or a PPC people to take on. - that's why display is a channel all in its own. Experts in this area are well worth their weight in gold if you want to be successful.

over 7 years ago


Richard Gregory, COO at Latitude

Great article Andy, and I agree it's surprising that more Search Marketers aren't attending display sessions. However ,that doesn't mean they're not doing it. As you point out, the skills required to manage display campaigns in this new world are very akin to those garnered by PPC professionals over the past decade, but maybe we're being complacent?

That said, I'm not sure the growth in 2010 was really driven by RTB. the majority of the display growth came from Facebook advertising(and a bit of video too), which a lot of advertisers choose to buy on a PPC basis as well.

All the same it's still positive news for the digital advertising world.


over 7 years ago


Simon Heseltine

Interesting, so there is acceptance that the growth is there, but also acceptance that there is a huge knowledge gap. Those that act quickly to fill this knowledge gap are going to be the ones that benefit the most.

...also I think you're being generous when you say that the rooms were half full...

over 7 years ago

Peter Bordes

Peter Bordes, Executive Chairman & Founder at oneQube

great article and a good example of why we evolved our performance marketing platform into a real-time bid exchange for performance marketing. The PerformanceExchange is a good example of the new generation hybrid model you outlined as it has all the attributes of search and display merged into the mtpx... we are expanding them into other channels as well... thanks for the great data.

about 7 years ago

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