What Is a Display Ad?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Brand awareness heavily relies on the power of advertising. Companies reach more customers through a wide variety of advertising such as display ads. Knowing what display ads are and the benefits they can provide can help you develop strategic advertising campaigns for your business. In this article, we explain what display ads are, list the various types of display ads, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of display ads and offer tips for creating successful display ads.

Related: 8 Types of Digital Advertising: Definitions and Benefits

What is a display ad?

A display ad is a form of online advertisement that uses text, images and website links to direct a client to a landing page where they can find out more about a product. Digital ads are mostly found on third-party websites. You can also place them on social media advertising platforms to help your company reach social media users. When used strategically, display ads can help your businesses achieve the following:

  • Greater brand awareness and visibility

  • Increased sales and revenue

  • More leads

  • Increased return on your marketing investment

Related: What Is the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising?

Types of display ads

While display ads refer to any visual ad on a website, you can break them down into separate categories based on who they target and how they work. Here are the different types of display ads:

Retargeting ads

Retargeting ads, also known as remarketing ads, are display ads that enable brands to personalize them based on a customer's interests and needs. Retargeting display ads depend on a customer's previous purchases, clicks or preferences. A successful remarketing campaign helps customers remember certain brands.

Personalized ads

Personalized ads are display ads that target customers based on their demographics and online interests. Here are the four categories of personalized ads:

  • Affinity targeting: Affinity targeting is a way to reach customers who've shown an active interest in your market. Since these affinity groups of customers can be broad, affinity targeting lets you reach a large population.

  • Customer affinity groups: These ads target relatively smaller affinity groups that have more specific preferences. Despite the limited reach, they allow brands to make themselves known to people with specific interests, therefore, increasing the chance of conversion and purchases with this group.

  • Custom intent and in-market ads: These ads target customers who are actively looking for a product or service similar to yours. While the audience reach for these ads is narrower than that of an affinity group and a customer affinity group, custom intent and in-market ads allow brands to target customers who are close to making a purchase.

  • Similar audience ads: Similar audience ads target online users with similar interests to your current visitors. These ads essentially help you find other people who may want to make a purchase based on their similarities to your current customers.

Contextually targeted ads

A contextually targeted ad is a display ad that you can find on a website with content that matches the nature of the ad. A contextually targeted ad gets placed on a website based on the following criteria:

  • Visitors' profile

  • Keywords and ad topic

  • Location

  • Language preferences

  • Major theme of the host website

  • Recent visitors' browsing history

Site-placed ads

Site-placed ads are placed on websites that you hand-pick to host the ad. Brands essentially choose whether these ads are placed on entire sites or on a few pages of the site. You can also combine site-placed ads with contextual targeting.

Related: Types of Advertisements and What Makes Them Successful

Pros of display ads

Display ads present a variety of advantages for businesses. Knowing the benefits can help you determine whether to implement these in your advertising strategy. Here are the major advantages of display ads:

Brand awareness

Display ads help your brand become better known by people who are interested in your products or services. Greater brand awareness may lead to more people making a purchase based on how well the ad convinces them.

Effectiveness of visual messages

Display ads use more images than text. This makes the ads more effective at passing brand messages to prospective customers who may not have the time to read through long text. In addition, display ads still leave an impression on web visitors, even if they don't click on the ad.

Easy to create and place

Display ads require little resources to craft and place. Unlike other digital advertising methods, display ads don't need complex integration with host sites. They can also appear on websites that are part of the publishers' network without much expertise. Therefore, small and medium businesses with a smaller advertising budget or with a lack of technical expertise can use display ads.

Reach customers at every stage

Display ads can reach customers at different stages of the decision-making funnel. Through better targeting and personalization, display ads have the potential to connect with customers from the awareness stage to the point of purchase.

Great value

Since display aids can reach broad audiences, brands receive great value for their money. Display ads go beyond the traditional forms of advertising to reach a global audience while being minimally obtrusive. By personalizing display ads, brands are likely to see more interest in their products and, therefore, higher sales as more people decide to make a purchase. Both of these factors add to the overall value of a display ad.

Related: How To Write an Effective Advertisement

Cons of display ads

While display ads offer many advantages to businesses, they also come with some drawbacks. Understanding these drawbacks can help you determine whether they're worthwhile. Here are some disadvantages of display ads:


Display ads may be intrusive when it comes to a web visitor's activity. This can elicit annoyance which can cause visitors to leave the site, or it can lead to the activation of ad-blocking features. Brands can avoid these scenarios by crafting a more appealing ad or through personalized targeting. Both of these may give the user a reason to stay on the site and receive the ad's message.


To be more effective, display ads need to remain concise. However, attaining brevity may be achieved at the expense of selling your brand short. To prevent this pitfall, brands can lead viewers to more detailed content where they can learn more about the company's products and services.

Low conversion rates

Display ads typically have lower click-through rates compared to other forms of online advertising. A lower click-through rate results in lower conversion rates. To avoid this, brands can use display ads as a component of a long-term marketing strategy by eliciting customer interests early on and engaging them at a deeper level later on.

Tips for an effective display ad

Here are some tips to make your display ads more effective in promoting your brand and increasing conversions:

  • Choose the best platform. Consider which platform can help your display ad stand out. When the ad stands out, it increases the likelihood of getting a prospective customer's attention.

  • Use contrasting colors. Choose a display ad color scheme that contrasts with the publisher's website background. This ensures it doesn't blend into the site.

  • Segment your audience. Use audience segmentation to design display ads that resonate with every member of your audience.

  • Leverage emotional triggers. Use emotional triggers such as happiness, surprise, sadness and anger to connect with your audience and help them connect with your ad.

  • Keep it clean and simple. Use a simple design with minimal text that makes your ad easier for your audience to understand. In addition, use high-quality images and a clear logo for a more professional and visually appealing ad.

  • Include a call to action. Create a call to action that involves persuasive language, the promise of a benefit to the audience and a sense of urgency. This can improve the likelihood of a customer purchase.

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