PPCCan RTB Turn Display Into Search?

Can RTB Turn Display Into Search?

Wouldn't it be great if display campaigns could behave similarly to search, driving highly targeted traffic when users are within the consideration stage on their path to purchase? Good news: this is possible with real-time bidding campaigns.

When advertisers consider which marketing channels are most likely to drive direct conversions, pay-per-click (PPC) search is most often the go-to channel.

It isn’t hard to understand why PPC has such a strong reputation for driving direct conversions; a well-targeted campaign will pull users in just at the time in the purchase funnel where they’re most often ready to compare and make a purchase decision.

For these reasons it’s easy to justify allocating marketing budget to PPC, setting goals, and optimizing the campaign for direct conversions.

Purchase Funnel

In relation to the standard marketing funnel, PPC would typically fall within consideration, just before purchase.

How Can Display Drive the Same Behavior?

Specifically, can display advertising behave in a similar way? Most traditionally, display has been largely used for prospecting and building brand awareness. Display campaigns are great for feeding the top of the funnel, familiarizing consumers with a brand, and leading them back to search or directly to the website for conversion. In short, display does the pushing, search pulls customers through to conversion.

Wouldn’t it be great if display campaigns could behave in a similar way to search, driving highly targeted traffic when they’re within the consideration stage on their path to purchase? Good news, this behavior is possible with highly targeted and optimized real-time bidding campaigns!

Optimization is the key to driving performance and cutting out any wasted display spend. The credit goes to RTB for making effective optimization possible via this channel and giving new life to the traditional method of direct display buying.

Just as with PPC, advertisers can use performance metrics like CTR, CPM, and CPA in their RTB campaigns and make real-time changes to drive performance at an acceptable ROI. This means RTB can be used not only to drive awareness and feed the funnel, but also to target the consumer wherever they are, and optimize to a specific performance goal.

Platforms and Advertisers Must Drive Efficiency

The issue with the industry at the moment is that advertisers aren’t optimizing RTB campaigns to their full potential. Traditional media agencies are still thinking of display as an awareness driver only, and aren’t accustomed to having tools available for regular campaign optimization.

Agencies to date haven’t been allocating enough bandwidth to dedicate the time to optimization which is needed to achieve a strong performance. Currently RTB platforms haven’t caught up quickly enough to make true optimization available within their interfaces.

Platforms must focus on improving their offering and ensuring they’re offering the most efficient reporting and optimization capabilities.

RTB campaign managers must use the tools available and also ensure their focus is efficiency. This means spending time making the changes which will have the most positive impact on the key campaign metrics and using the existing tools to their full potential. Use of APIs, pivot tables and charts, and external reporting dashboards speed up efficiency for campaign managers.


Never fear, though. Priorities are changing, and quickly.

Publishers, advertisers, and agencies are all beginning to understand how RTB is really changing the display advertising game, and will soon have no choice but to get on board with true optimization. Once advertisers understand the volume of direct response activity to be gained from this type of marketing, they’ll expect their agencies and platforms to follow suit and make this marketing channel perform to its full potential.

Real-time bidding allows advertisers to strike the right balance between the brand awareness and prospecting benefits of traditional display, and the measurement and optimization tools which make PPC effective as a direct response channel. It’s up to advertisers, platforms and publishers to take it to the next level.


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