The beginning of this month marked the 15th anniversary of the industry's first banner display ads, which appeared on hotwired.com, an offshoot of the beloved wired.com.
Now, as then, the obsession with where the click takes online audiences is very much at the forefront of digital display advertising, sometimes sadly to its detriment.
Many column inches have been devoted to the debate around a measurement system for online display, yet still too many metrics rely upon the ‘last click’ rule of attribution, which simply attributes the purchase to the final click-through.
Measuring solely in this wasy is the equivalent of running a burger drive-through outlet and giving all the credit for sales to the cashier in the window.
It ignores the influence of any advertising seen by the consumer prior to their ultimate conversion.
But many online display ads act the same as an offline poster would. They prompt users to further research products long after they have seen the marketing message.
Crediting only the final click-through attributes no value to other "display" benefits of an online ad - increased brand-awareness, buzz or loyalty reinforcement.
This is a problem that has long been known, but the recent pressure on prices and budgets have resulted in too few marketers being prepared to invest in fully tracking everything.
They are not committing to researching the results of their campaigns properly by immersing themselves fully with engagement mapping methods.
It is much easier instead to take a short-term approach (especially if your job is on the line) and go with the hard facts easily at hand and stick with search, as you know it will provide tangible results that you can then pass upstairs.
However, research is now increasingly showing the benefits of search and display working together.
The Atlas Institute recently found that when a single advertiser exposed users to both display and search ads the conversion rate jumped 22 per cent over search alone.
The study also discovered that 44 per cent of internet users who clicked on a sponsored search ad had also seen display ads from the same advertiser.
This strongly suggests that the display ads act as a powerful brand-building tool that persuades users to click on and convert from search ads.
But although there is a strong relationship between display and search, all too often advertisers are still not exactly sure what is working, and what is not.
To acheive this understanding, we need the ad industry to share more data and all work together to simplify the processes involved, rather than being protective.
The relationships between search, display, email, video, and mobile are too mutually-beneficial for the current approach to continue.
Incredibly, recent research from TNS Media Intelligence suggests that still only 12 per cent of marketers are truly running cross-channel campaigns.
Measurement remains a significant challenge, but display advertising must move away from direct sales and shift the focus to a clearer measurement of awareness and engagement for brands.
One solution that has impressed us at WebAds UK is called "engagement mapping".
This is a tool that has been around for more than a year now, and tries to take into account all consumer interactions that eventually led to them researching and purchasing a product.
A cookie-based process, it requires full analytical coverage of all ads run and advertisers’ pages.
This gives marketers a far more accurate assessment of the results of campaigns, how to tweak them proactively mid-campaign and an idea of how to plan future propositions.
However, the process requires access to all possible available data, so having it sit in separate silos held be competing agencies is unhelpful.
Not only this, but the sheer amount of data required to analyze everything properly, create test campaigns and monitor the results over and over again requires enormous resources - again good reason for co-operation.
Surveys can also be run both pre, mid and post campaign – which may also give marketers an idea of how other media such as TV, print and outdoor ultimately impact upon online activity, demonstrating how all their campaigns tie together and what works best.
From a funding perspective, the development costs and research into engagement mapping must be funded by agencies and networks – after all, they are the specialist intermediaries that should benefit.
Once the value of everything is more fully understood, this should, in turn, then attract even larger budgets to digital which will only benefit all parties involved (search analysts included).
This, combined with panel-based measurement systems (such as UKOM), could finally advance online beyond other media.
It would finally enable us to reach the pot at the end of the rainbow - the unique ability to be entirely measurable, targeted and ultimately, to create an ongoing fully interactive experience between brands and consumers.
Do you agree that there is a strong display value in internet advertising? Do you think agencies will ever collaborate and share data in this area? Comment on this article below: