What is Display Advertising?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: David, Petoo, Miqul, Renato Rovina
  • Last Modified Date: 12 March 2020
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Display advertising is promotional material used to market and sell goods or services. It normally appears in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet and billboards. The content usually contains a mixture of text, drawings, photos and logos. Internet display advertising frequently has audio and video enhancements as well. Display advertising transmitted via e-mail or through mobile devices normally contains only text.

Before Internet advertising became so prevalent, display advertising was the term generally applied to print ads that contained more than text. If a retailer wanted to advertise in a magazine, newspaper or the business section of the local phone directory, he or she typically had a choice of either display or in-column advertising. The former was larger, more expensive and typically included fancy graphics and logos. The latter was normally a nicely worded text ad comprised of two or three lines and a phone number.

On the Internet, display advertising is commonly referred to as Web banner advertising. It customarily appears on Web pages that are free to consumers. The banners typically contain a wide range of ear and eye-catching movements and sounds to attract the attention of the Web page visitors. These banner ads are typically designed to increase brand awareness rather than elicit an immediate online purchase.


When banner display advertising was first introduced to the Internet, the banners were relatively small and unobtrusive. The goal at the time was to be subtle and gently inform the Web page visitor of the advertiser’s presence. However, as monitors became larger and technology advanced to include sound and video in the ads, the banners became larger. The cost of banner advertising also became more affordable to more merchants as technology moved forward.

Web banner display advertising typically is targeted to the audience generally presumed to have interest in the products or services being offered on the Web page. For instance, if the site is dedicated to dispensing parenting and child rearing advice, the banner ads likely will promote sales of educational toys and games or children’s clothing and accessories. Services such as childcare or summer camps might also post banner ads on the Web site to attract parents as customers.

Software called cookies that track which sites consumers visit most often now make it possible for merchants to use display advertising more directly targeted to individual tastes. By monitoring site visitation, advertisers can determine which advertisements can successfully cross over different sites to increase business. For example, a consumer may find an ad for camping gear on a frequently visited cooking site if he or she also regularly visits campground or camping equipment sites.



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