A Digital Guide Primer

I remember it so vividly. It remains a clear “before and after moment,” the kind you look back on and realize that everything has changed. In October of 1994, I was working at my weekend help desk job. When it was slow, I would activate my dial-up connection to “The Pipeline” ISP in New York City. This way, I could access my very first personal email account. It was at this point when the first version of the Netscape Navigator arrived and then, on October 27th, it happened.  The online offshoot of Wired Magazine, HotWired, posted the very first banner ad. The copy asked, “Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?” The ad also offered its own response, “YOU WILL.” And with that, the world of advertising got a lot bigger.

Suddenly, the user’s advertising experience was interactive. They could actually engage the ad. And once they did, they would be taken to another location – one completely crafted by the advertiser. Further, this new level of engagement could be tested, measured, and optimized on-the-fly. Audience members could be targeted based on general behaviors and real-time actions taken.

As the lure of interactivity began bringing more brands to digital, new advertising models evolved. The number of people using the internet to search for information was growing, and the digital realm found ways to monetize the data generated by this behavior. When user engagement of display ads dipped, publishers developed ad units camouflaged to appear as part of the content consumption process. In recent days, digital’s interactivity has even come to redefine elements of its traditional predecessors. With digital TV comes new levels of engagement to the traditional television watching experience.

It is hard to imagine a time before clicking an ad, but the truth is that digital advertising has evolved significantly over the past two decades. Digital media now encompasses much more than simple static display ads. It can, therefore, be difficult to keep up with the constant evolution that continues to leverage the medium’s interactivity.

To that end, I offer a little clarity on a few of the core concepts related to today’s digital media advertising realm:

1. Pixel

Perhaps the very essence of what makes digital media unique is the ability to collect data about those who view and engage advertiser messaging and take real-time strategic action based on their activity. This all begins with the pixel, a unique numerical identifier placed within an ad or on a website that sticks to the user’s browser and can be recognized as the user moves across the internet.

2. Behavioral Targeting

By placing their own pixels and by partnering with other pixel dropping entities, advertisers can target audiences by surfing habits, searches made, in-market activity, intent indicators, brand affinity, and more. Many websites and companies make money by selling their lists of pixeled users. Advertisers can then create variant messaging for users with specific pixels that indicate behaviors inclined to classify them as members of targeted audiences.

3. Retargeting

An advertiser may drop a pixel on visitors to their website, indicating some level of demonstrated interest. Users with this pixel who visit selected websites might then be retargeted with next-level messaging by the advertiser, designed to push the user further down the sales funnel.

4. Contextual Targeting

Rather than targeting their audience based solely on predictions of websites visited, another option to advertisers is to target across a set of websites but to have ads only served to targeted users when they are reading content that is perceived to align with interests that would suggest a connection with the advertised product or service.

5. SEO vs. SEM

Though often mistakenly used interchangeably, the two are unique strategies within the search space. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the strategic use of content and other signalers to ensure that an advertiser’s website or related landing pages show up, organically, in early results when users search targeted words or phrases. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the tactic of bidding for paid placement in search results when targeted words or phrases are typed into search engines.

6. Native Advertising

Native ad units are those designed to structurally and contextually appear to be extensions of content-driven webpages. They were initially a reaction to the perceived disruption in user experience represented by many kinds of digital display ads and have come to represent a powerful tactic in leveraging a user’s expectation of an increasingly interactive online environment.

7. Connected TV

Also called Over-The-Top (OTT) TV, streaming video services delivered through smart TVs and devices like Chromecast, Apple TV, ROKU, and Amazon’s Firestick are pushing a true revolution in the way that television is consumed and, therefore, the way advertisers can reach targeted entertainment consumers. Connected TV campaigns are powerful as stand alone strategies or as a supplement to a traditional TV buy.

There you have it. 7 terms to get you started on your next digital marketing campaign. Whether you’re trying out contextual targeting, SEO practices, or Native Advertising, it’s important to remember who your target audience is and how you can effectively reach them.

Adtegrity is one of Revel’s digital partners. We team together to provide solutions that allow manufacturers to target audiences at the most personal level. We asked Adtegrity COO Mike Struyk to write a blog regarding his overview of Digital Marketing.

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