Where is Good Design in Digital Advertising - Guest Post By Prateek Alsi

Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.

Prateek Alsi is the Director of Distribution Partnerships at Square. The thoughts represented here are his own.


Success in Silicon Valley has traditionally hinged heavily on hiring the best engineering talent. But we’re witnessing a seismic shift. Hiring the brightest programmers – while essential for building world-class products – is just table stakes for the next set of disruptive companies. The youngest generation of rising tech companies has realized one thing: it’s all about design.

Take Uber, the black-car hailing service that has made a complex logistics operation effortless. On the surface it is nothing more than a mobile app that sends a black town car to pick you up when you press a button on your phone. Or consider Peek, a new online travel site that helps you discover things to do when visiting a new locale. And let’s not forget the now ubiquitous discovery apps that we all use to pin or post what we fancy. Even last month’s Fast Company magazine was dedicated to the now-famous quote of IBM’s legendary CEO that “good design is good business.”

The next set of Silicon Valley torchbearers all have a “design first” ethos. But beautiful design is notably absent from the world of online advertising. Why is this? Why is it that we see little to no design innovation happening in online advertising, particularly when its sole purpose is to capture the attention of consumers and create a experience with a brand?

Instead, many of the digital ads we see today are poorly designed; take, for example, the ads you see while reading a piece of content on a mobile device. Who wants to have a terrible banner follow your scroll? Much of the problem is that these ads are created with old technology or by automation platforms where designers who are not yet fully-skilled just mass produce ads.

Given the above, it’s astonishing to see the amount of investor capital pumped into “ad technology” companies who have little understanding of design, or worse, who don’t care about it. It’s my belief that ad tech companies that focus on building platforms for the impending evolution of digital ad design will have fundamentally better outcomes than their peers. The evidence of this is mounting across other industries. Look no further than “design first” firms such as Audi in automotive, Method and Dyson in packaged goods, and Uniqlo in retail.  

If you’re a CMO and your team's attitude toward digital advertising is that “design first” doesn’t matter, do you think you will?