Online Advertising options in 2016

Twenty years ago, the ‘rules of advertising’ were simple:

  • Consumer brands invested heavily in TV, local radio and newspaper campaigns
  • B2B businesses focussed on trade press and exhibitions
  • Local traders took display ads in regional papers and the Yellow Pages

This was a time when an ‘advertising platform’ literally meant any reasonably flat surface (backs of busses, service station toilet cubicles and signs in the middle of roundabouts all pulled in the advertising pound).  Simpler times perhaps, but also very frustrating – viewing/reading/listening figures were very unreliable, and any thought of trying to calculate ROI was quickly dismissed.

Fast forward to the present day and digital media has shaken advertising beyond recognition. New platforms emerge all the time, so as well as ‘regular’ web advertising, we need to consider mobile and even local digital TV services like Sky’s AdSmart. The formats of ads might include PPC, display, retargeting, sponsored posts, pre-roll, take-over and native.

Quite bewildering  perhaps, but thankfully, Cite are at hand to help you understand the jargon, select the right channels and put in place the systems you’ll need to measure your campaign’s success. In this blog, we concentrate on providing an overview of  the major online advertising channels and how they could benefit your business.

Pay per Click

As the name suggests, the revenue for pay per click (aka PPC, cost per click or Sponsored Ads) is generated by charging the advertiser a fee every time a user clicks on one of their ads.  To complicate things a little, PPC ads can take lots of different formats including simple text, display banners and video pre-roll.

Google’s AdWord campaigns are probably the format most familiar to professional marketers and the type we are going to focus on in this blog. Typically, these are displayed at the top and side of search engine results, and are managed directly within the advertisers Google account.

In their simplest form, AdWord campaigns require the advertiser to collect together a list of keywords and phrases they wish to ‘sponsor’ and specify a maximum bid value they are willing to pay. The advertiser must also write their adverts and specifies which web page it should link to (this is called the ‘Landing page’). The amount it costs to sponsor a keyword or phrase will depend on both the competitiveness of the market and the relevance of the landing page.

As well as driving mainstream traffic to a web or mobile destination, PPC campaigns can be used to test new markets and collect behavioral data and user insights.

Setting up an AdWord campaign is not technically difficult, but it does require significant management time, especially at the beginning of a campaign when keywords, bidding and conversion tracking need constant optimisation.

In addition to Google AdWords, PPC text ads are used by:

  • Bing
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Reddit Ads
  • StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
  • Pinterest

Display Advertising

Display advertising is a broad term to describe any non-text-based advertisements. Display ads can be static, or dynamic (using animation or video). More sophisticated ads use technologies like HTML5 that allow users to properly interact with them or to pull their content from other sources(for example, you may have seen advertisements for online stores such as Ebay or Amazon that display products from their site).

Like their printed counterparts, commercial news websites derive most of their revenue from display advertising and so offer a bewildering range of formats – banner ads can run across the top of the page, along the sides, or take over the background area completely. Not surprisingly, one of the most useful formats  is called an MPU (Multi Purpose Unit) which measures 300 x 250 pixels.

Although it is still possible to buy ad space directly from some commercial sites, ads are usually ‘served’ by third-party providers such as Google or DoubleClick. Ad serving platforms use very sophisticated technologies such as Real Time Bidding (RTB) to buy/sell space. In addition, media planning service like Quantcast help advertisers target audiences as accurately as possible through immersive demographic and lifestyle audience data.

There are several models for purchasing display advertising including per-click and per 1000 impressions (CPM).


Remarketing (aka retargeting) provides an opportunity to continue a dialogue with users after they have visited your website. This is achieved by dropping a small piece of code onto their device (whether that’s a PC or a mobile phone) that triggers your ad to display when they next visit a site that is part of a remarketing network. So for example, if you have ever looked at a product on Ebay or Amazon and then seen the same product being shown to you on a news or entertainment website, you have effectively been remarketed-to!

Remarketing allows you to stay in contact with your target audience even after they have left your site, by bringing them back and converting them into a sale or completing a contact form. Very often, remarketing is used as part of a longer sales process (for instance, when selling a high-value B2B service).

Remarketing can use both text-based and display advertising formats, as well as mobile, email and video pre-roll. Integration with email campaigns is a particularly interesting combination and works by triggering the ad when the email is opened and read.

Remarketing service providers

Google – Easily set up your Remarketing campaign through Google AdWords the largest online advertiser on the planet.

AdRoll – Allows you to reach nearly every site on the Internet through its advertising partners such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook Exchange, OpenX Market, Microsoft and Appnexus. Companies such as Moz, Levi’s and Salesforce are using the platform to promote their businesses through remarketing.

Facebook – Facebook has a lower cost per click than traditional search engine remarketing because you are exposing people to ads without the search intent. Facebook allows your brand to become more recognisable and increases the chance of customers returning to your site. A unique feature within Facebook allows you to create custom audiences that mirrors an audience that hasn’t visited your site but is likely to convert.

Perfect Audience – The appeal of Perfect Audience as a solution for remarketing is the simplicity of the initial set-up.

Social media Online Advertising

Success in paid search naturally leads to an interest in the potential of social advertising. Paid social media advertising is now a common feature within the overall marketing budget of small and medium size businesses. With the global usage of ad blockers growing by 41% between 2014 and 2015 paid social media advertising has become an even more important channel for online marketers.

The three most common social channels for businesses are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.


LinkedIn advertising appears directly within the social media platform as either display adverts or targeted text ads. It is the ideal platform for B2B companies looking to find business owners and working professionals that would be interested in their product or service.

The major benefit of using LinkedIn advertising is the ability to really define the audience you’re looking to target. The targeting options allow you to specify your audience by company, size and industry as well as specific information such as their role within the company and skill set.


Twitter Advertising allows you to get your account and tweets in front of more people leading to better conversations with your target audience. Twitter’s has over 288 million active users each month and 49% follow brands, and 42% of users learn about products and services on Twitter.

Twitter ads come in the form of promoted accounts, promoted tweets and promoted trends.


Facebook has an estimated 1.3 billion active users and Facebook advertising allows you to reach a portion of those users that are most suited to your product or service. So instead of simply targeting visits, you are engaging people that have a similar profile to those visitors that convert on your site.

Facebook advertising helps you:

  • Facebook offers enhanced audience targeting
  • Facebook allows you to test your creative through A/B testing
  • With over 1 billion users accessing Facebook through their mobile, Facebook ads allows you to reach this mobile audience
  • Facebook insights provides trackable metrics that will support your ad strategy and in turn increase sales

Emerging Social Media channels

Vine and Periscope

Twitter have no immediate plans to add promoted vines or periscopes, instead they use a company called Niche that connects brands with social media stars. Some of these social media creators have over 9 million followers, which is a large captive audience. These stars create short videos or live streams to promote a brand or product launch to their followers.


Pinterest offer paid advertising through promoted pins and are ran on a cost per click basis. Promoted pins offer more exposure and less competition compared to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Pinterest can be used to promote a particular product, event or new service.


After Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion they were immediately under pressure from investors to generate money from the image sharing site. This September Instagram made paid ads available to all businesses through the platform.

Most Facebook ad targeting tools are available through Instagram, meaning you can target people through their interests and actions.

Mobile – in-app

Mobile ad spend in the UK is expected to increase by 45% in 2015 to £3.26bn, easily surpassing the £2.67bn that will be spent on print advertising across national and local newspapers and magazines, according to a report published by eMarketer and discussed recently in this Guardian article.

Most apps are now free, so developers have to find alternative ways to generate cash. Apps use in game ads that users can click through to a site or download a product.

Mobile in app ads include:

  • Full screen ads – These are ads that appear during natural pause points within apps, such as at the end of a level.
  • Notification ads – These are push ads that appear within a device’s status bar.
  • Capture form ads – These are usually for tokens or bonuses within games that are exchanged for information such as email addresses.

Other forms of online advertising

Native ads camouflage themselves within the style and structure of their surroundings. They closely match the format of the website that’s hosting the ad. You may not even realise that the article you’re reading has been written by an advertiser.

Pre-roll ads are ads that appear before the video you want to watch begins. They are quite often TV ads that have been chopped down and repurposed. These ads needs to be impactful from the very beginning to stop people from skipping through.

Takeover ads allow you to occupy 100% of the advertising space on a particular page. This type of advertising is all about generating brand awareness. Takeover ads work well when the website’s audience is the same demographic that you are trying to reach.


Takeover Ad example from Game

Clickbait ads are designed to grab your attention and tempt you to click through to the article. Advertisers create custom content that matches the interests of the target audience. The key to clickbait is understanding your audience and what most engages their curiosity.

Cite can guide you through the range of digital advertising options that are available, advising which strategy would be the most profitable for your business.

For more information on how Cite could help promote your business through online advertising please contact our team today or call us on 0116 254 9888.