The Beauty of the Ugly E-commerce Display Ads

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of cheap-looking e-commerce ads, they keep appearing everywhere! So, I thought about a life-changing question: why do so many ads have to look so ugly and simple?

I searched for clues to try to unravel the mystery of life, and suddenly a new thought popped into my mind: maybe the advertisers do this on purpose?

Ugly on purpose? What? Is that even a thing?

Today we are going to talk about what I found out about this topic.

The first thing I realized when I researched the question is that there are two kinds of e-commerce ads that exist in Programmatic Advertising:

  • The first type, are the ugly ones.
  • The second type is the nice, expensive ones.

Let’s discuss the differences between the purpose of the two different types of ads.

One can recognize the “ugly-looking” Google Display Ads because they show isolated products on a white blank background.

This made me wonder, why do they look like this? Not from the technical responsive point of view, but the strategic point of view.

Here’s a simple explanation. When you browse through products online, you can’t experience them physically, or touch them to feel the material, or see the real color. That’s why the e-commerce advertisers isolate the items on a white background, so you can imagine them better. If the background is colorful it will distract from the product itself.

Okay, so this may be one reason why they use these ads often.

But if we dive deeper into this question, there are more reasons why webshop owners love to use them.

The first reason why these Google Ads are often used is that they lead the customer to the e-commerce store. This is how e-commerce stores find the shortest way from the impression to purchase! Why add in needless steps if they are needless?

The second reason why they are so popular is that they’re cheap to make. You don’t need to hire an expensive “million dollar per minute of work” designer, but you can hire any 12 year old for that extra dime in your pocket to make the ad. And Google default designs make it even easier to do these ads!

A third reason why these ugly ads may work better is that they look like a group of everyday people made them! Not a big fancy Madison Avenue agency paying advertisers millions of dollars. That implies they’re both not like you, and also they’re probably overcharging you for the product. They have to make money somehow to pay for the fancy ad designers!

More broadly, if the uglier-looking ad results get better CTRs, higher conversion rates, and more profit… then why not use them?

Well, there is at least one reason why you wouldn’t want to use better-performing ads. Let’s talk about the other type of ads!

The other types of ads in e-commerce are the nice, well-designed ones.

They are usually used by bigger brands. These Google Display Ads have to convey certain values of the brand. Thus, they conform to the classic advertisement values.

How do they look? These ads present a product in an appealing context to arouse interest for potential purchases in the future. In this appealing context, the potential customers can imagine how fancy and classy they would be if they owned the product. The purpose is to make a good impression and not only focus on selling the product immediately.

In other words, they’re selling a feeling. And if they can sell you that feeling enough, you’ll associate that brand with that feeling. They’re selling feelings!

Logically they’re less effective when used by small e-commerce shops because their purpose is completely different. Small e-commerce shops don’t have the budget to do feelings-based ads.

What’s my conclusion? What I learned today is that there are big differences between the purpose of the different Google Display Ads we’re seeing. It’s always important to check what’s going on behind the scenes first.

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