US display ad spend will overtake search ad spend in 2016… wait, what?

In news that will possibly contradict what you assumed about display advertising, in 2016, digital display ad spending will surpass search ad spending in the US for the first time ever. 

According to a new report by eMarketer video ads, sponsorships, rich media and the loosely named ‘banners and others’ will account for a 47.9% share of digital ad spending, worth $32.17bn.

That subsection of display named “banners and others”, which also contains native and social ads, will also receive the most investment from advertisers. The report states that “overall, one in five dollars devoted to digital in 2016 will go to ‘banners and other’ digital display ad types.” 

So what the heck happened? I thought display ads were long dead. One of my most over-used stats is this from Solve Media: “You’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad.” There are loads more similar stats here.


But I now realise these are more than two years old now. However there was plenty of evidence to back this up in 2015…

Pardot published a collection of stats in November 2015, as well as quoting our very own Leighann Morris. 

  • More than 70% of U.S. internet users ignore online banner ads.
  • 70% of marketers in Asia currently use display advertising, but only 44% plan to use it in five years’ time.

Last year, AdWeek also gave multiple reasons why you shouldn’t waste money on digital display ads.

They interviewed Bob Hoffman, retired CEO and chairman of Hoffman/Lewis Advertising, and he said the one of the biggest issues with display, alongside possible fraudulent activities involving bots and artificial ad impressions, is that “One-half, or more, of paid online display ads never appear in front of humans.”

This corroborates the claim that Reid Tatoris, cofounder of MediaPost, makes that fewer than 10% of display ads will ever be seen.

Another major issue that hit mainstream awareness in 2015 was the rise in ad-blockers, and the combative rise in ad-blocker-blockers.

According to a report by PageFair and Adobe, in the UK there are an average of 12m monthly active users of ad blockers. Year-on-year this figure has by 82% from 2014. The global economic impact of ad blocking software is predicted to reach £26.7bn by the end of 2016.

This is completely understandable. You only have to look at the desperate and user-experience destroying presence of a whole contemptible variety of display ads, from push-downs, to overlays, to pop-ups, and their proliferation on sites that traditionally used to have better sense than that.

And don’t even get me started on automatic content recommendation platforms.


At best, we have trained ourselves to ignore display ads, at worst, they ruin our experience of the web and make us question whether we want to repeat our visit.

But… perhaps things aren’t quite so bleak. As the eMarket report suggests, there is an upswing in digital display investment.

Why is this? Improvements in “cross-device capabilities, programmatic advertising and continual efforts to address issues of ad viewability and fraud” have helped.

Clearly the higher quality a remarketed ad is in terms of relevance and timing, the more effective it is, and as programmatic bidding increases in popularity, this will hopefully free up more time to develop more sophisticated ad strategies. 

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