Display Advertising in 2020

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display banner ads 2020

Over the past 15 years display advertising has had a lot of peeks but also a lot of hard hits. Where does the medium stand in 2020? Let’s discuss.

In 2020 most advertisers are not investing in rich media any longer, in favor of more simple direct communications through both display and social media. Not only seen as less intrusive, more cost and time efficient but also if done correctly, more effective.

The transition from Flash to HTML5 a couple years back, left agencies with a huge gap to fill. The talent pool that had been creating display ads up until this point primarily came from a design background and used Adobe Flash Professional, a program to create ads that didn’t involve a lot of heavy coding. When Apple announced it would no longer support Flash (citing security and power issues) it wasn’t long before Google followed suit. The alternative was HTML5 ads and an entire industry switched over night. At the time though the current software available didn’t support the move fully and so a fragmentation in talent happened.

Designers with very little code knowledge, moved into motion graphics and video editing as a natural extension to expand upon what they had already learned while the coders, moved toward web and UX/UI design and development. This left a gap for companies that still wished to create HTML5 animation and ads. No longer were there the endless cost friendly graduates eager to get into the industry because they simply stopped teaching these skills in media development programs. They did however continue to teach HTML5 for web development. So largely, we’ve ended up with a lot of developers in design roles. It’s often pretty obvious in the end creative too. Display ads with basic fade transitions, simple movement tweens, static images, with no life or character.

Skip forward now to to 2020. Adobe Animate CC (formerly Flash) has come a long way. The ability to create HTML5 display ads knowing very little code is possible again. However as I mentioned, the wait to get here had most of the talent part ways long ago. Demand is high for those who have stayed the path because they have those legacy skills that simply aren’t being taught in mainstream education.

So what does the creative look like now versus 10 years ago. Well back in the day we would treat display advertising as a commercial. You’d have a full 30 seconds to get a message out. We would create ads with as many as 8 frames long to use every second of the 30 seconds. In 2020 we now know you’ve got less then 8 seconds (closer to 4) to get your message across. Typical banners these days are 3 frames at most. Often having a call to action on screen the entire time. They often are front loaded with offers or messaging at the beginning and then the end. Some of the most effective ads are a single frame using, subtle animation over static messages and imagery. The key is to keep it short and simple. I mean you can still make longer 15 second long ads but they will only be effective if shown to a captive audience that will see the entire thing. Animation has been shown to still draw a users attention far above a static image, though I have seen a lot of advertiser’s opting to go this route. It’s believed this is primarily due to the combination of a shortage in talent capable of effective HTML5 animation and confusion among the different players and specifications.

In the next couple years, due to privacy concerns 3rd party cookies are going to be limited, both reading and writing them. Display advertising may once again take another blow as companies scramble for a new way to track and re-target users across platforms, but as we’ve seen from past, this will only be pain point for a limited time. Display advertising is still trending upward and in recent years has surpassed 100 billion in revenues. The medium itself won’t be going any place. The way that it is served however may get interrupted most of all. More focus on booking placements with specific publishers contextually will be a factor in getting creative to the right audiences. As programmatic tracking declines (especially for 3rd party players) finding these audiences will take some time but every problem has a solution and no doubt these issues will usher in a safer and more modern web eco-sphere for everyone involved. For some time now publishers have been struggling with monetization and it’s believed this will bring back a bit of the old model. Allowing both content creators and advertisers greater symbiosis and partnerships.


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