MBPT Spotlight: What Google Doesn’t Get About the Display Advertising Business

When Google launched its search-advertising platform back in 2000, people flocked to it as a way to drive online traffic toward publisher websites. Google built an entire empire on this model, and promised never to insert display ads into search results.

All of that changed last month, when Google reneged on this promise, saying it is now exploring ways to show display ads through online searches. The result was a breaking of the trust it had established in the online advertising community.

Google itself is all about scale and has no business in the visual artistry of display advertising. Their approach is more of a say-and-spray technique, which is also helping people get a particular message out to as many people as possible. But this approach sacrifices quality for quantity. And in this age of banner blindness and desensitization, the visual component is what will capture and hold a consumer’s attention.

Several of us in the ad community have grown more and more concerned with Google encroaching on the realm of display advertising. Among the reasons why:

Google Is a Monopoly. The world’s largest search engine established an empire with AdWords and they serve a functional purpose. As a company attempt to be all things to all people, building out experimental tools in areas that are not part of their core focus. Google is facing antitrust issues by the Federal Trade Commission because of bundling products such as search and display. That’s why they may never push the display product, which can be perceived as being too risky for their search business.

Google Turns Creativity Into a Commodity. Custom-made ads will always outperform templatized ads. This can be a turn-off for companies just embarking on launching their first display campaigns. After all, it takes one human being’s imagination to inspire another’s.

As a Company, Google Barely Advertises. Of course, they’re lucky enough that they don’t really need to either. Also, the whole concept of search ads means that someone comes to you based on what you’re selling. They don’t understand push marketing. If the advertising industry was simply based around what people are looking for, the U.S. economy would be a fraction of what it is today.

Google Doesn’t Understand Display for Small Businesses. A small or midsize business shouldn’t just wait for a potential customer to search for a product they’re selling and try to outbid their competitors on a search engine, they should proactively seek new customers. The real news of real-time-bidding technologies is giving SMB’s access to the same tools major agencies use for display advertising. Buying display media is like trading the stock market; compare it with the entrance of Ameritrade, eTrade or Scottrade a decade ago, allowing individual traders to trade from home.

Google Is Too Complicated for Retargeting. It can literally take about 20 steps to create a retargeting campaign on Google. Google Adwords is designed for search advertising, which is 90% of their business; no wonder they stuck the “Display Network” tab all the way toward the end. In terms of UI it’s just too hard to combine them both.

The headlines have it all wrong and banners aren’t dead. When you are searching for just the right ad-buying platform, you should consider the value of finding a one-stop-shop platform for ad creation, delivery and retargeting.

You could go to Google for display, a company such as Criteo for retargeting and Triggit for Facebook retargeting. Or you can go to unified platforms such as Dispop for all your display needs—including creative. As a species, we are visual creatures and banners are just another form of visual communication on the Web. Banners may evolve but they just won’t go away, no matter what Google has to say about it.

Dispop is an ad creation, buying and campaign management platform for small and medium-size businesses. Prior to cofounding Dispop, Ebert founded DesignPax, an on-demand Web design company that creates websites, Facebook pages and banner ads. Ebert also worked at Advertising.com (an AOL Company) and worked with major publishers such as Weather.com, WashingtonPost.com and ABC.com.