Display advertising is an essential part of any digital marketer's toolkit. No other type of visual advertising has the massive reach and precise targeting that display has.

But many companies are hurting themselves — and display overall — by repeating a few critical mistakes.

If you’re using display ads, you could be putting your brand’s reputation at risk if you’re doing these 3 things.

This VW ad's arrows work in the live version (this is a screenshot), but how would you feel if they didn't?

The Interactive Bait and Switch

People in the industry often say that consumers don’t like clicking on ads. That’s not exactly true.

Many consumers don’t like clicking through ads, and being pulled away from the site they were on. When given something interesting that is also safe to explore in an ad, engagement rates prove that clicks occur much more frequently.

So be careful if you’re offering a fake experience. I wont name names, but be wary of buttons or navigation that make the ad look like it’s interactive, but it actually click through to another page.

When your ad doesn’t perform as expected, it can not only damage your brand, but makes it less likely that consumers will interact with your ads (or any ads) in the future.

EpiPen is an important, life-saving product, but the dense text on this ad can make it hard to look at. (Source:

The Kitchen Sink

Ads that are too tightly packed with information can be visually stressful to look at.

Visa, doing a good job of balance lots of content with a clear message.  (Source:

This is often extra difficult with products that require a disclaimer, where a significant portion of the ad needs to contain a legally required message, such as in the EpiPen example (above).

Good ads have a single message or idea — something that can be absorbed and understood in the few seconds or fractions-of-seconds that a consumer may have the ad in view.

Even ads that have a ton of content do best to have a single idea tying everything together.

Take for example, this Visa ad (right), where the content focuses on how innovative CFO’s can make their businesses more competitive. The ad is packed with content but it is also highly focused in the message and the images are words have room to breathe.

The Unidentifiable Advertiser

Lesser-known companies sometimes make the mistake of concealing their brand or product behind a killer call-to-action.

Ad for Tile. (Source:

This can even happen unintentionally, such as in this ad for Tile. Tile is a really cool product, but at a glance the ad here could be perceived as untrustworthy or ignored simply because the name is hard to make out (especially on monitors as bright as mine). 

It doesn't matter how amazing the promises are in your call to action; without putting something easily identifiable on the ad, your content is inherently suspicious.