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Paid digital media: where to start and what to know

When discussing advertising options, our clients understand the need for a paid digital media presence in addition to their media mix. And with more consumers adopting a digital-first lifestyle – nearly nine in 10 Americans are active online and 77 percent use a smartphone – keeping up with new ways to target and influence them becomes a more pressing business need by the day. Still, many clients are looking to better understand the options that are available to them regarding the best approach to paid digital media.

Breaking down the three areas of paid digital media – paid social, paid search and paid digital display – is a good starting point to understanding how implementing these strategies can help advertisers target new and existing customers for their goods and services.

Paid Social

Ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat

These are the targeted ads you see on your favorite social platforms with the goal of increasing brand-to-consumer interaction. While scrolling through your feeds you may notice the ads you see are usually complementary to your likes and tastes. Paid social allows advertisers to target users based on rich, first-party data that comes straight from users themselves. Sixty-nine percent of American adults are social media users and those users are inputting their locations, demographics, likes, opinions and consumer behaviors directly into those platforms. Access to this unfiltered first-party data aids advertisers in pinpointing their audience, driving awareness and achieving consumer conversion in an ultra-cost-effective way. Additionally, due to the nature of social media, smart advertisers can create timelier and more engaging content for the people they’re targeting.

Paid Search

Ads on Google, Bing, Yahoo

Optimizing a website for search has been a key digital strategy for years now. Paid search is a related strategy that allows advertisers to purchase keywords so when a customer types in those words, an ad is populated at the top of the search directing the user to your site. Traditionally paid for on a cost per click (CPC) basis, the goal of paid search is to direct traffic from the search engine to another site. As an example, by typing “water bottle” and “hiking” into Google, some searchers will soon see a paid search ad directing them to Amazon’s e-commerce platform to see a list of “best water bottles for hiking.” This demand-based platform enables advertisers to capture low-hanging fruit by giving potential customers exactly what they’re searching for.

Paid Digital Display

Display, Native, Video, Mobile Ads

Paid digital display incorporates many different ad vehicles. Display ads are the stationary ads you see in the head or margins of a webpage. Native advertising looks like a traditional editorial article but is really an ad meant to look like an article. Video is displayed in many forms but most commonly as a commercial before original content you’d see on YouTube or on a publisher’s site (Forbes, Washington Post, ESPN). These vehicles are meant to drive awareness and operate on a cost per thousand (CPM) or cost per view (CPV) model for video. While still targeted, paid digital relies on aggregated third-party user data vs. the pure self-reported first-party data that drives paid social. Paid digital is an excellent complement to paid social – when people aren’t on their social channels, they’re more than likely online consuming other digital content.

A nuanced appreciation of the differences among paid social, paid search and paid digital display strategies will give advertisers a leg up in understanding which avenue or combination of strategies might be the most effective in helping them reach their target. We understand in this digital-first economy, paid digital media is increasingly important in reaching and influencing our audiences.

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