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An ex-SEM's changing viewpoint on Display

Published: April 30, 2013

Author: Michael Yates

For the author, the shift from SEM to display shed a new light on holistic marketing.
Having recently celebrated my one-year anniversary at PPC Associates and transitioned from our Search Engine Marketing channel to our Display Marketing channel, I’ve had on my mind the concept of perspective shifts – namely, the differences and similarities between Search, Social, and Display.
For SEMs, our first exposure to display marketing is through the Google Display Network. Managed and Automatic placements allow us to get interesting creative in front of the eyes of our target audience with keyword and contextual targeting options. The general feel is that the sky is the limit for branding, limited only by the client’s coffers.
As a GDN campaign continues with scrubbing the URL reports for irrelevant content, we begin to notice a trend. A lot of the sites that our banners are being placed on are not what one would describe as “high quality”, and sometimes they’re barely relevant. There’s a lot of interest and direct response to be gained through display, but the inventory feels limited and not worth a lot of effort in creative testing after a while.
Here is where the perspective shift happens: Enter the Ad Network. Stage Right, The DSP. Thanks to our Director of Display Wizardry, Sean Nowlin, I was exposed to the arena where inventory was truly limitless, premium placements were waiting to be called upon, and impressions were well into the millions (if you have the pocketbook to front that kind of initiative, of course).
SEMs quickly learn that GDN is a small network with a majority of remnant inventory, perfectly tailored to getting a client’s feet wet in branding and awareness initiatives. But for the large clients looking to get on the front page of ESPN? The GDN doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s out there.
Experiences like this are akin to walking from the antechamber into the banquet hall. From feeling like a start-up to a Madison Avenue  powerhouse. From hoping that the audience targeting is close enough to placing a banner on that [Famous Name] Site and reaching the exact target you’re looking for.
This isn’t to say that Search Marketing isn’t immensely valuable. It’s the easiest, most intent-driven way to say “If you want it, we got it.” To embrace the perspective shift that taught us about SEO, Social, Display, and Search all working together is to create real long-term value for clients. You will quickly see that looking at the bigger picture either after a year SEM or a quick Insertion Order at the end of the month is what true holistic online marketing is all about.
– Michael Yates, Account Coordinator – Display

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