The past year has been a real game-changer when it comes to Digital Advertising. Brands have either found that users are showing more positive interaction with their Display Ads, or grown sick of viewing them – or an odd mixture of both. This is thanks to a global pandemic that’s forced us to enjoy the limited comforts of home and spend hours hunched over our electronic devices. I’m sure we’ve all resisted the urge to fling our smartphones/laptops across the room and run outside to experience the wild outdoors again (or even a local supermarket, for that matter).

However, since that’s not an option and we’re strongly advised to follow Covid protocol, we might as well make the most of our time indoors and spend those hours online productively….or as productively as possible when we’re derailed by social media trends and beloved Sitcoms returning to our screens. Now more than ever, it’s important for brands to focus on creating Display or Discovery Ads that truly stand out. The more time a user spends online and the more ads they view, the less likely they’ll be to interact with your ad and boost your click-through rate (CTR).

Most brands don’t seem to see the opportunity they’ve been presented within the form of having users spend more time online and are guilty of creating uninspired, boring, and plain ineffective ads. For instance, I was on Instagram the other day and came across this ad:

Ad Review: Why A Display Ad Could Be Ineffective

It’s an ad for a content writing course. Now, let’s set aside the fact that I haven’t been looking for any content writing courses online since I work as a content writer anyway. Therefore, I’m not surprised this ad showed up. In other words, I could be considered the target audience for such an ad so their target strategy seemed to be fair enough. Reliable studies over the years have shown that targeted ads bring in several times the revenue that non-targeted ads do. For example, the generic ads you see online that could ‘Make You A Millionaire If You Play XYZ Card Game’ are not half as effective as an ad that’s targeting budding content (or established) content writers to increase conversion rates.

Now that we’ve agreed the Display Ad above was well-targeted, let’s review the ad itself and figure out if the PPC specialist did a good job here. Let’s start with the overall graphic design of the ad. It consists of dark, muted colors (save for the ‘Free Download’ button) that don’t do much to capture the attention of viewers. Besides, it’s featured against an equally dark background so it’s apparent that not much effort went into determining the color palette of this ad and whether or not it would entice an audience visually.

Since the main ad itself contains no obvious visual depiction of the product or service being offered, it’s hard to tell what it is at first glance. For instance, from viewing the ad I could gather it’s a product aimed towards honing a user’s content writing skills, but I wondered at what medium this would be achieved through. From the main body alone you could conclude that it was either a full-fledged course, a seminar, an e‑book, or something else along those lines.

However, the written content of the ad is convenient enough to identify which makes it easy on the eye, so I‘ll give points for that. What troubles me is what’s written in the ad. There are several problems I could pick out within just a few seconds of reading the text, and this is supposedly an ad for a content writing course! Let’s start with the words ‘Learn Content Writing And Become An Expert’. Could this line be any more unimaginative and generic? Everyone who knows anything about content writers knows that a simple online course won’t make you an ‘expert’ as the ad suggests. This could be true for any field, not just content writing. Therefore, the main opening line of the ad itself seems insincere, which makes it difficult for a user to trust the rest of the content, even though there isn’t much of it left.

Let’s move on to the next line featured on the right-hand side of the main body – ‘C is for Content’. Aside from the fact that I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, I can’t help wondering why it was included in the first place. Anyone who’s viewed the attention-grabbing line ‘Learn Content Writing And Become An Expert’ already knows this is an ad for a content writing course of some sort, so why include another like ‘C is for Content’ that sounds silly  (and way too cheerleader-ish for my taste) rather than engaging? The line seems utterly lacking in context and seems more like an afterthought to take up space than an addition that brings value to the ad.

This space could’ve been better utilized by adding some sort of description about what this content writing resource entails or information on the brand. Instead, the creators of the Ad have used a text box below the image (as this was on Instagram) to add a brief description. Even then, this doesn’t seem effective as the lines featured here are outlining the demand for content writers and the size of the industry. Now, don’t get me wrong, this could be useful information to add when enticing potential content writers or those with similar interests. However, this should ideally be added after an adequate description of the product/service is complete.

The makers of the ad have finally highlighted what this product is (‘In this unique book, you’ll learn…’) near the bottom of the ad, where most users have already stopped reading and moved on to the next Instagram story. Don’t you think it would’ve been effective for the brand to mention that their product is an e‑book in the main body of the Display Ad, right at the start? The ‘Free Download’ button seems confusing in and of itself anyway as it doesn’t mention what a potential user would be downloading. It would’ve been much more effective to add ‘Download E‑Book Now’ (Ever heard of CTAs? Anyone?) instead of mentioning it’s an e‑book much later.

In conclusion, the purpose of this article was not to bash up the Display Ad featured above or discredit the brand in any way. Every company makes a mistake now and again with Digital Marketing, especially considering how competitive the playing field currently is and how difficult it can be to execute a successful Ad Campaign. The reason I reviewed the ad was to highlight the mistakes an agency or company could make while floating Display Ads online. Keeping these mistakes in mind may just help you avoid them and give your engagement strategy a healthy boost.