E-commerce | 11 min read

Display Advertising Trends 2020: the essential facts and stats

Display advertising trends (and staying on top of them) is a priority for all advertisers and marketing teams.

Why? Display advertising continues to grow – even during these unprecedented times. According to the latest eMarketer research, Worldwide display advertising is expected to grow by 18.5% in 2021. What’s more, display ad spend is set to rise to $26 billion in Western Europe too.

Download our 2020 infographic now to uncover the full picture and discover how your brand can stay ahead of the competition and boost its display advertising performance.

The trends you need to know

Having your finger on the pulse is essential. Whether that is knowing about shifts in consumer behaviour or which tactics have the potential to increase conversions.

Therefore, we present fresh insights into European display advertising, looking at 2019 data, as well as exploring the first six months of 2020 and the impact of Covid-19.

In this article we will analyse and explain:

  1. Why mobile devices are the champions of display advertising
  2. How video continues to grow across industries
  3. How personalisation increases display ad performance
  4. Why preparing campaigns for key shopping days is essential
  5. What the top performing banner sizes tell us about ad creation

 

 

1. Why mobile devices are the champions of display advertising

The big news for 2020 is that mobile screens are the most likely location your ad will be seen on. In fact, there was a yearly increase of 15% of ads served to mobile devices.

This meant that 2019 saw the majority of all display advertising impressions taking place on mobile devices for the first time. Previously, just weekends had majority mobile ad views.

What are mobile display ads?

Mobile display ads are ads which are optimised for mobile devices. They are specific sizes of responsive HTML5 display ads that feature copy and creative elements tailored for mobile interactions with consumers. They are also particular sizes of display ad; 320×50 for example.

Our take on device usage

Consumer smartphone usage continues to increase and this has meant more ads served to mobile devices. A mobile screen is now the principal place where most display ads are viewed – not a bigger desktop screen.

However, not all mobile devices are faring quite as well in 2020. Since 2018 we are witnessing a negative trend for ads served to tablets, with a drop of 20% in 2019 and a further 34.5% fall during the first half of 2020.

Additionally, there is no difference between the growth of mobile views on weekdays and weekends, as it increased in the same proportion.

 

Key learning

Creating display advertising campaigns mobile-first, and then scaling a campaign to bigger sizes, is best practice that cannot be ignored. Being able to get your mobile display ads the best they can possibly be and then having the time to optimise your mobile creative is essential.

 

The impact of Covid-19 on device usage

During the first six months of 2020 mobile views grew even further, accounting for 55.7% of total ad views. And June 2020 saw a record 58.2% of all ads served to mobile devices.

Worth noting is research from the United States, by Valassis, which found mobile device usage increased during typical working hours, and was linked largely to browsing rather than app usage. Potentially, this is the same case for Europe – it will be interesting to examine data for the second half of 2020 too.

 

 

2. How video continues to grow across industries

Use of video within display advertising grew by 82% in 2019. Today, a variety of industries are using video to connect with viewers and are seeing value from using moving images. However, use of in-banner video has been impacted by Covid-19.

What is in-banner video?

In-banner video is a video clip that exists within a display ad. It uses the space provided for an HTML5 ad to deliver a video that is either part of the HTML5 animation of a display ad, or provides the viewer with the choice to view a full video. It can be a cost-effective way of delivering video content and reusing creative elements.

Our take on video growth

Alongside an increase from 2018 to 2019, our data also found the same seasonal fluctuations in video usage between the two years, with peaks in April, September and December.

This suggests that advertisers are using video for key seasonal campaigns.

Telecom is leading the way, when it comes to the use of video within display advertising, with iGaming usage growing year-on-year too. However, the most curious increase in video has been within financial services.

Our Head of Insights, Antonia Lindmark notes that “video is a key asset for creating engaging content. It goes without saying that moving content is easier to consume than text for many viewers. Plus, it offers many creative possibilities, which is probably the reason for its continued growth.”

 

Key learning

In-banner video offers marketers a cost-effective way of engaging with a target audience and reusing creative assets from other channels within display ads. What’s more, combined with an advanced ad creator making video ads is now easy and mainstream.

Furthermore, video is a great way of connecting emotionally with audiences. For example, it could be that for an industry such as financial services, using emotion or evoking a feeling is a key way of getting a casual viewer to click.

 

The impact of Covid-19 on video usage

2020 began with higher levels of video usage but then dropped as the impact of the pandemic took hold. Display ads containing video can cost more to publish and it is likely that this was one of the first things to be cut to to decrease marketing spend.

Travel and media saw steep falls during the first half of the year. While, telecom also saw a drop in video usage – however, financial services and iGaming continued on an upward trajectory.

3. How personalisation increases display ad performance

Personalisation, through the use of dynamic creative, has long been seen as one of the key drivers for increasing performance and getting a better ROI from display advertising.

In fact our research found that there was an 8% increase in click-through rate for personalised ads in 2019 compared to 2018. As marketers know, audiences prefer ads that are relevant and timely – a key display advertising trend.

What are data feeds in display advertising?

A data feed enables a live display ad to showcase a variety of different dynamic content. Meaning different ads from the same campaign can run differing ad creative, depending on the information supplied from a data source (or even multiple sources). For example, geolocation data can be used to inform a data feed, which then shows a specific offer based on a consumer’s location.

They are a brilliant and cost-effective way of enabling the basic personalisation of display campaigns, and for live ads to remain relevant without republishing. You can read more about using data feeds for personalising display advertising here.

Our take on dynamic creative and personalisation

Across industries only 14% of the total volume of all display advertising in 2019 used a data feed. This is astonishing considering how easy they are to set up and use.

However, when comparing industries this doesn’t tell the whole story. If you are to include all the different forms of personalisation, from advanced (dynamic creative optimisation) to basic (campaign scheduling) then certain industries lead the way.

For example iGaming personalises 21% of all its display advertising, in comparison to retail, which personalises just 11% of all its display campaigns. Financial services on the overhand manages to personalise a meager 1.25% of all the ads it publishes. With ever increasing CTR rates, the opportunity for the canny marketer is there.

 

Key learning

Essentially, with such a low amount of dynamic creative usage across most industries, there is a huge potential for many brands.

The adoption of true creative personalisation is still the holy grail (and can be easily done with the right martech). Yet, even more basic forms of dynamic creative (data feeds, programmatic buying and targeting, campaign scheduling, etc) enable advertisers to perform the basic personalisation of advertising.

 

The impact of Covid-19 on data feed usage

Between quarter 1 and quarter 2 of 2020 usage of data feeds in display ads dropped by 4.8 percentage points. However, quarter 1 did see an increase in the usage of data feeds before dropping over the next quarter as the impact of the pandemic on advertisers across industries hit.

4. Why preparing campaigns for key shopping days is essential

For 2020 we decided to study the data for display advertising trends surrounding key shopping days. What we found both surprised us and confirmed our hypothesis for which days have the biggest impact.

The takeaway? Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best days of the year when it comes to CTR. Preparing your campaigns for these key shopping days is essential.

What are key shopping days?

Key shopping days are when consumers spend, spend, spend. And to put it bluntly: click, click, click! For traditional retails, e-commerce, telecom, travel and media businesses they are some of the most important dates of the year for trading.

However, not all shopping days are the same. For example, some brands may consider Valentine’s Day to be a key shopping day – well, the lead up and the weeks before are important – yet the day itself sees little in the way of increased views and CTR. On the other hand, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are very different beasts! Read more about key shopping days here.

Our take on key shopping days

The big news is that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday have a much higher CTR than any average day. Black Friday saw a 28.5% increase in CTR, while Cyber Monday witnessed a 32.5% increase in 2019. Therefore, making the most of this increase in activity is essential.

And it’s only getting more important too. Comparing 2018 to 2019 CTRs, Black Friday saw a 53.3% increase and Cyber Monday an astonishing 66.9%. Preparing your most effective and personalised campaigns and offers to make the most of this level of interest from consumers is key.

Worth noting for 2019 was that Singles Day does not register with viewers within Europe – with no increase in CTR noted.

Additionally, Valentine’s Day, plus all the different Father’s Days and Mother’s Days across Europe do not see increased ad views or CTR. However, it’s unlikely consumers will actually be buying anything specific on those days and rather having campaigns live in the days and weeks leading up to the days are important for specific brands.

 

Key learning

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s importance to advertisers is increasing, suggesting consumer habits are becoming more fixed. For certain industries having a display campaign ready to go for these dates is a minimum.

However, preparing your best creatives, scheduling offers, or using data feeds with product targeting can increase results and provide better performance. Additionally, using advanced personalisation, such as dynamic creative optimisation, could provide an even better return on investment.

 

The potential impact of Covid-19 this holiday season

We believe that preparing your best ever display campaign is something all brands should be looking to do this Autumn. Indeed, our hypothesis for 2020 is further increases in display CTR and conversion rates (CVR) due to a European consumer base being more accustomed to shopping online.

Indeed, new research from eMarketer predicts that over 70% of US adults plan to shop digitally during the 2020 holiday season thanks in part to the impact of Covid-19. They report both young and old consumers are now more likely to shop online. We believe this display advertising trend will be repeated in Europe later this year.

5. What the top performing banner sizes tell us about ad creation

Mirroring the dominance of mobile devices as the number one publishing location of display advertising, the top performing banner sizes are unsurprisingly mobile sizes.

Again, being able to build for the tiniest of screens is an essential skill. But as a display advertising trend it doesn’t present the whole picture…

Why are there so many different sizes of display ads?

Each display ad size or format is designed to fit a particular space on a webpage – known as ad inventory. Over time some sizes of ad inventory have become more popular. There are also regional variations in display ad size popularity.

Our take on banner sizes

The top 5 European banner sizes make up 68% of all ad views in 2019. Which oddly enough was the same figure for 2018 too. However, the top three ad sizes, with 52.2% of all views, are this year (for the first time) all mobile sizes. Again, emphasising the importance of creating ads mobile first.

However, it is worth noting that while mobile sizes dominate, after the top five sizes there is a long tail of various other ad sizes. This remaining 32% of all display ads should not be overlooked.

This display ad inventory represents billions of ad views and potential covenersions. Moreover, when running a programmatic campaign being able to create all the different ad sizes of creative needed to publish to these placements could prove very beneficial. Not only will more views see your campaign but they might be cheaper to serve too.

 

Key learning

Designing for the smallest mobile ad sizes and efficiently scaling campaigns to hundreds of versions is a must for display advertising in 2020. And the ad creator of a creative management platform, (CMP) is the best way for even the smallest in-house marketing team to produce effective campaigns.

In fact, by being able to produce a range of formats, marketing teams can take the opportunity to consider less popular sizes too. This has the following benefits:

  • Easier to deliver campaigns – leave buying impressions to your demand side platform (DSP).
  • Reduces the cost per mille (CPM) to since there is less competition lower for uncommon sizes.
  • Enables your DSP to perform better since it can learn from more sizes.

 

Note: All statistics featured in this blog and infographic are based on aggregated
and anonymised Bannerflow customer data for the year 2019, plus January 2020 to June 2020. It offers insight into the patterns – and forces – driving display advertising for thousands of brands across Europe.

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