Source: eMarketer.

Display advertising is growing. Shocked? While executives at Yahoo may differ, more sanguine projections from eMarketer paint a rosier picture, including the eye-opening expectation that display will eclipse search advertising in the next calendar year. At $21.2 billion, display is projected to capture 44% of 2014's US digital ad spend. While search advertising has single-digit growth rates going forward, display will enjoy double-digit percentage increases through 2017.

So what's reinvigorating display, bringing it back from the digital advertising doldrums? eMarketer points to four things:

  1. Content-richness.
  2. Programmatic direct.
  3. Multi-screen.
  4. Viewability.

Let's take a brief look at each of these trends and their impact on the overall display market.

Content-Rich, Engaging Ads

We've been beating this drum for a long time here at Flite, but here's more validation that making ads that provide genuine informational and/or entertainment value will be well received by users. Technological advances are making the embedding of content - excerpted or even full articles, videos, photo galleries, maps, polls, forms and more - in display ads increasingly common, obviating the need for the ever-elusive click to render a meaningful engagement. Advertisers are understanding that clicks poorly correlate with the results that matter to them, while engagement metrics such as time spent on the unit constitute much more reliable indicators of the impression an ad left on users.

Programmatic Direct

By significantly reducing friction in the media buying process - doing away with RFPs and IOs - and piping in consumer data, the marketplace between advertisers and publishers is becoming a lot more effective. Publishers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their ad product offerings, and by allowing brands to purchase targeted inventory at scale outside the RTB ecosystem, new efficiencies are created to recapture value.

Multi-Screen Support

Designing ads only for a particular device just doesn't make sense when a majority of US Internet users are now using at least a couple of devices throughout the course of their day. There is considerable room for advertisers to take advantage of the second-screen phenomenon and users' shuffle between devices as their contexts change with innovative campaigns.


As the industry agrees on a single set of definitions for viewable impressions, this new standard will become standard currency on both sides of the media buying equation. With advertisers knowing they are paying for a user impression only when the ad is visible, their higher confidence should reward those "in-focus" ads that have the capacity to be seen and engaged with.

Where search will continue to outpace display for the next four years is in mobile, according to eMarketer's projections from last year. One can only wonder if this same set of innovations that is sparking a renaissance in primarily-desktop display will make its way to mobile as well...