What is digital advertising?
Digital advertising refers to marketing through online channels, such as websites, streaming content, and more. Digital ads span media formats, including text, image, audio, and video. They can help you achieve a variety of business goals across the marketing funnel, ranging from brand awareness to customer engagement, to launching new products and driving repeat sales.
The field of digital advertising is relatively young, in comparison to traditional channels such as magazines, billboards, and direct mail. The evolution of advertising isn’t just about what the ads look like or where they appear, but also the ways they’re built, sold, and measured.
Differences between digital advertising and traditional advertising
The primary differences between digital advertising and traditional advertising are flexibility and precision.
One example of flexibility is how quickly digital ads can go live. The process of printing and distributing ads through traditional channels—sending out newspapers, painting a billboard—can take a significant amount of time. In contrast, digital advertising can have a much shorter lead time, showing up on a website almost immediately after the ad is created. For ads that are automatically generated based on a standard template, the process can take literally a few minutes.
Unlike print advertising, where an ad can’t be changed once it’s been published, digital ads are flexible even after the campaign is live. Depending on the specific channel, it may be possible to adjust the creative content, timing and frequency, targeting, and more. This allows for in-flight optimization where you can make adjustments to ad campaigns based on how they are performing.
Digital advertising is also extremely flexible in terms of budget. Complex and high-profile digital advertising campaigns may be just as expensive as traditional advertising—or more—but digital ads are also accessible to smaller businesses without significant budgets, and may scale up or down to match your financial investment.
Another key difference between digital advertising and traditional advertising is precision. Traditional ads in magazines, on TV, or on billboards reach anyone who sees them. In contrast, digital advertising lets you use different methods of targeting in order to be more precise and reach audiences who are more likely to be interested in your ad. For instance, if you sell outdoors equipment, you may choose to reach audiences who are interested in hiking, or reengage shoppers who have browsed your products but not yet purchased. Depending on the format, you may also choose to limit your ad to certain times of day, or exclude audiences who have already viewed your ad once from seeing it again.
Why is digital advertising important?
There are many reasons that digital ads are a crucial part of any business’s marketing strategy. Maybe the most important one is that consumers are spending more and more time connected to the Internet through their computers, smartphones, and smart home devices. The average American has access to more than 10 connected devices in their household.1 Digital marketing allows you to meet audiences where they are.
People make decisions about the goods and services they buy at all times of the day, during all kinds of activities. With digital ads, you can reach audiences when they are browsing online for products to buy. Or you might reach them when they’re streaming a TV show, visiting a favorite website, or using social media. Even if they don’t choose to purchase from you in that moment, reaching them in these different contexts can help them remember your brand later on, when they’re ready to purchase.
There are multiple types of advertising formats in digital marketing. These are some of the most common:
Social media ads appear in social media platforms, such as Twitter or LinkedIn.