How to Set Up a Display Ad Campaign

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  • January 20, 2016

The marketing landscape has indeed evolved tremendously. In today’s digital era, marketers can promote their business through many different channels. TV, radio, mail, and print used to be the prime channels, while nowadays there are several dozens – social media, online display, paid search, to name a few. With all these and many more to choose from, it makes sense why marketers might get confused. Since online display advertising has been one of the prominent choices of marketers in recent years, this article will focus on the steps necessary to set up, launch and manage a display ad campaign.

Online display advertising in a nutshell

Basically, display advertising covers any type of banner (of various sizes and shapes) placed on a web page, with the aim to communicate a message to audiences. Today, advertisers can pick and choose various formats, such as rich media, video, and interactive banners.

The 5 phases of a display ad campaign

To make things easier for marketers, we’ll explain the elements that form the process of launching and managing a display ad campaign. The steps below are easy to follow and might come handy when you decide to start your campaign.

Phase 1: Select goals and KPIs

The basis of every successful campaign is a well-structured strategy. Therefore, the first step for marketers is to decide what they want to achieve with the campaign. Some common goals include increasing web traffic or e-mail subscriptions, or raising brand awareness.

Start by brainstorming ideas about your campaign objectives – do you want to build brand awareness with your ads or drive sales? If you want your audience to memorize your brand as they browse a web page, you’ll be raising brand awareness. If you want people to click on the ad and buy your product, your objective will be to drive sales.

The next step is to select the data points that will help you measure to which extent your campaign is reaching the goals set. These are key performance indicators (KPIs). Common KPIs include click-through rates (CTRs), number of impressions served, conversion rates, etc. So, if your campaign objective is to build brand awareness, your prime indicator will be the number of served impressions. On the other hand, if your objective is to drive sales, you’ll be focused on conversion rates. Your campaign goals determine the KPIs.

Phase 2: Define target audiences

targetingEstablishing your target audience is closely related to your campaign objectives. So what is a target audience? It’s those ideal people that you want to present your campaign to. Why is it important to define the right audience for your ads? Because your ad won’t produce the same interest and be equally engaging with everyone. There will always be consumers who won’t show any interest to buy your product, so displaying your ad to them will simply waste your budget. Also, research where your audience is – more and more people are spending time on mobile devices, so have this in mind while building your campaign.

So how do you know you’re targeting the right people? As a marketer/brand, you’ve probably established a profile of a typical consumer. This profile consists of behavioral, demographic, and other types of attributes. These will help you establish who to target in your campaign.

For example, if your product is camping equipment, you already know (by having formed consumer profile based on research and past consumers) that your typical buyers are men in their mid-thirties who like nature and hiking. You can use this information to set up a campaign and reach those who match this description. Moreover, you can also retarget those who showed interest in their product (e.g. visited your web page).

Phase 3: Create your banner

This is the phase when you should remember that your ad only has a single moment to make an impression. Therefore, it’s extremely important to craft a compelling ad and make the most out of the moment. What exactly are you trying to communicate? Ads reflect the story behind the brand, so spending time to think about the best way to present your product will be worth the effort.

There are different ad formats and sizes to choose from, some of which are: text ads (simple ads that contain only text), image ads (one of the most popular forms of banners, these contain a graphic along with some text), video ads (with an embedded video), rich media ads (usually contain image and video and an interactive element, such as a game, or a quiz for the consumer, and can float on the screen, shrink, or expand). It’s better to combine more of these types and see what works for you.

Here’s a list of things that will help you create an eye-catching banner that will effectively communicate your message:

  • Think of the placement:

Different ads drive different results on a site. Text ads perform better on certain sites, while image/video ads on others. You have various dimensions and formats to choose from. Whether by research or by trial and error, you’ll find the format suitable for your campaign.

In short, these are the elements you should have in mind:

  1. Formats. Text ad, banner ad, video/rich media
  2. Dimensions. For desktop, the most popular are: 300×250, 728×90, 160×60; for mobile – 300×250, 250×250, 320×50, and so on.
  3. Positions. When you open a site, what you see without scrolling down is above the fold, everything else is below the fold. Above the fold is one of the most desired positions, but there are in-article ads that you should definitely have in mind, or side placements that are visible when scrolling through a site.

Examine the possible placements of your ad, look around and take some notes: If the page design is quite minimal without many articles, you can place a text ad, if it’s a news site with lots of content, visual ads might work better.

Considering these elements, create ads that you can combine on different placements.

  • Create a good copy:

The copy is an important part of the banner design – a good copy sells. Time to get creative with words.

  1. Simplicity goes a long way. Use simple words so that anyone can understand your message. Stay away from too many technical words, slang, jargon etc. Put yourself from the other side of the ad and read it as an average person that is not familiar with your product/service. They should be able to draw the right conclusion about it.
  2. Be precise. Avoid any unnecessary information. Consumers today have a short attention span, and with so much information all over the Internet, it’s no wonder they’re easily bored. Get straight to the point with your message.
  3. Use catchy words. Remember that “catchy” is in the eye of the consumer. There are many buzzwords that perfectly describe your product, but keep in mind that they’re already overused and might not catch consumer attention. You might also want to include a certain teaser in a form of a question that picks up user attention, but doesn’t provide an answer.
  4. Make more versions of the ad and ask for an opinion. Consult other people before you decide.You can present it to people with different interests or age to see how they react. You can also include people that fall in your target audience.

Spend some time on research – take a look at some of the most successful and effective examples – they might inspire you to produce a quality copy.

  • Include a call to action:

Maybe the most important element of your banner. What do you want the user to do next? Tell them to do exactly that, and be as clear and as direct as possible. “Sign up now”, “Subscribe”, “Find out more”, “Get your coupon now” – these are examples of a very straightforward instruction for your consumers.

  • Have a consistent landing page:

The landing page is the page the user is taken to after clicking your ad. Let’s say your banner has an image of your product, which is a T-shirt. A user clicked on it and is directed to your page that contains the exact item clicked. This is an example of a good landing page because users won’t end up feeling tricked or lost on your site – they clicked because of a certain item, and they want to see it on the place they were directed to. Your landing page should be optimized for a conversion and be appealing enough for the consumer to take a certain action.

  • Think of the design:
  1. Colors. Should be in line with the brand and the landing page. display ad campaign
  2. Font. Use clear and readable fonts. Don’t go overboard – nothing too cursive. Keep it simple and go big with the headline.
  3. Button. Call to action element that takes you to the landing page (even though the entire banner is clickable, the button is a greater encouragement for taking an action), especially if you are promoting a product or a special offer.
  4. Images. Are you promoting a brand, a product, new line of products, discounts, some service? Whatever it is, the image should be in line with it.
  5. Logo. It’s very important to place your logo since that is one of the greatest assets of the brand’s image.

Ready, Set, Create!

Before you create your ad, you can do a research by using competitive intelligence tools, such as WhatRunsWhere, MixRank, or BoxofAds. With these, you can find out what kind of campaigns other companies run, their targets, and what works for them.

Having the basic rules in mind, it’s time to create the banner. You can do this yourself, or turn to a professional to do it for you. For more advanced banners, HTML5, dynamic or interactive ads, you can turn to platforms, such as Bannerflow or Bannersnack. If you have a tight budget, you can create a banner on Fiverr for just a few dollars, or simply search for suitable templates.

Phase 4: Buy media

There are several channels through which advertisers can do this:

  • Publishers. Advertisers have the option to purchase media directly from publishers. Publishers often save premium inventory or ad space to sell directly to advertisers. Usually, the price for this is higher, and the media purchase is arranged in advance for a fixed period of time, impressions, and price.
  • Ad Networks. Advertisers can also buy media through ad networks, which act as links (mediators) between them and the publishers. Ad networks are the point of contact between the advertiser and the publishers, and in this way, they make the process of running ads across websites easier for advertisers. There are different types of networks for various purposes, so spend time to research on their features and choose the one that will drive the best results for you.
  • Advertising Agencies. Choosing an advertising agency to run your campaign can be a more expensive option, but bear in mind that agency experts are familiar with a lot of techniques and tips that you might not know about, and this can worth the investment on the long run.

Phase 5: Track and optimize

display ad campaignWith display advertising, marketers can track and optimize the performance of their campaigns. If your campaign isn’t meeting your established KPIs, you can make modifications to improve the performance. Below are the points where you can intervene:


While you run your campaign, you may notice that some segments of your target audience respond better to it than others. You might want to consider focusing your campaign on those segments that have better response and results.


In case you think your creative doesn’t cause the desired consumer engagement, you might want to try other versions and see which will produce the result you want. Also, you can A/B test regularly to see which elements are driving better audience response.

Landing page

Even a small modification can make a huge difference, so don’t be afraid to make some changes, and make sure to perform A/B testing on a regular basis, in order to have all the elements of the campaign optimized.


With each display ad campaign you finish, you’ll end up with a much clearer idea of what works. In other words, you’ll have insights on your target audience, their preferences and behavior, while the indicators will show if you’re on the right track to achieve your goals. With this data, you’re all set to create successful campaigns in future.


Mimoza Naumovska

Mimoza Naumovska

Social media manager and content creator at Bonadza. I run the social profiles of the company and craft content for Bonadza's blog. I'm exploring the programmatic landscape and I'm eager to expand my blogging horizons. I love books, beer and gigs.

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