Getting Creative with Display Advertising: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ignorant

Sexist Display Advertising

It may be a little unorthodox for a paid search executive, but I’m going to open this blog post by referencing the immortal American sitcom, Friends.

Growing up I always identified most with Rachel; I wanted the fabulous hair, the great wardrobe and the successful career in fashion – I wouldn’t turn down a date with Brad Pitt IRL either; who wouldn’t want to be like her?

So I gave it a go…kind of. I’m still working on the fabulous hair (mine resembles that of a small boy) and I usually rock up to work in a hoodie and jeans (but that’s okay because we’re a digital agency, look how cool and hip we are!), but I did land the ‘glamorous’ job in fashion…and I hated it.Display AdvertisingNow, no offence to all you buyers and merchandisers out there, but it just wasn’t for me. So I packed up my bags and moved back up north where I landed a job in PPC. My brief stint as Rachel Green was over.

Suddenly, out of the blue, I was Chandler. Not because of my quick wit and sarcastic jokes, but because, no matter how many times I explain, my family and friends have no idea what I do for a living.

This became apparent when most recently my mum announced over a family dinner that I “do something with Google”. As a PPC executive, you can imagine my dismay at being labelled like this. Okay so, yes, I have connections with Google (who am I kidding? Google is life). But what about my profound insights into Paid Search and data analysis? My wisdom surrounding keyword optimisation and landing page experience? No? Have I lost you….?

The truth is that the PPC Exec is fast becoming an integral member of any digital marketing team. Paid search has grown massively over the past decade and the opportunity to become progressively creative within the sector is increasing alongside it.

This is where I close in on what I really want this blog post to say – PPC IS COOL. There. I said it.

Particularly when you get to use your imagination and work with some ace designers who can bring your ideas to life on the Display Network.

The Display Network allows you access to millions of sites and apps and allows businesses to use contextual targeting based on interests, topics and demographics. By advertising on the DN your ads have the potential to reach 90% of global internet users, and ads are served across over 2million sites. So with the opportunity handed to you so easily, all that’s left is to come up with an original creation that will bring in those conversions.

Some companies nail this time and time again, some…. not so much.

The Good – Volkswagen

Display Advertising - Sex Sells

Sex sells – shocker.

It’s been one of the foundations of advertising for over one hundred years. We all know it, but it can get a bit tired. Volkswagen, however, took this rule and turned it on its head. By using witty innuendo combined with classic design to promote their Cabriolet, they successfully built an engaging ad campaign that retained their brand without going too far.


The Bad – Nivea

Display Advertising - Nivea

I’m just going to leave this here…



Sexist Display Advertising

Sex sells, sexism does not. In our world of gender fluidity and hardcore feminism, it doesn’t take much to ruffle the public’s feathers. So one has to wonder what exactly Billabong were thinking when they ran the two display ads…side by side (if you listen carefully you can actually hear the facepalms echoing around the world).

Let’s break it down. Men’s ad – “look at me, I’m a talented surfer and athlete.” It screams strength and masculinity. Women’s ad – “Look at me as I recline on the beach in this really natural way with my breasts thrust forward…”. As an industry leader who sponsors a whole host of some of the most talented female surfers on the planet, this is just pure ignorance from Billabong.

Not surprisingly, it was met with uproar. The first big retort came from journalist Karen Knowlton, who asserted that the brand’s clear message seemed to be “Here women, this is what we think of you. Welcome to our site.” I’d advise you all to go read the full article but I’m definitely not allowed to write the title here.

Keala Kennedy, Billabong athlete for over 15 years and winner of numerous prestigious surfing awards summed it up when she wrote: “If you keep marketing to your consumers in a way that is completely degrading to half the population, many of them will stop buying your product.” And thousands echoed her across social media.

What can we learn?

So please PPC execs, learn from Billabong’s mistake, (I can’t believe I’m writing this) if you want to improve sales lose the stereotypes and show the ladies some respect.

These are only three examples of the ways in which display advertising can go, but if you get it right then the possibilities for success are endless.

So while Rachel Green may not have approved of my departure from the world of fashion (don’t get me wrong, I still love a designer handbag or five), don’t despair for my fellow PPC execs and I. There’s still heaps of potential to get creative with your paid search campaigns, and your prospective clients will be hugely impressed by your ability to inject a little quirk and innovation into their advertising, especially when you can provide stellar results to match your originality.



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