Most people thinking of display ads (e.g., banner ads, GDN lightbox ads, etc.) as a branding play. However, I believe the true value of display ads is in their lead generation potential.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on the Google Display Network (GDN), and it can be useful for certain objectives in certain industries. But I’ve shifted to programmatic display advertising on Choozle.

In this article, I’ll explain:

  • Why I don’t use Google for display ads… and what I use instead
  • What programmatic display advertising is… and how you can use it to generate more leads

Why Should You Use Display Ads?

Before we get into the meat of this article, let’s talk about why you should consider using banner ads in the first place. There are two primary reasons to add display advertising to your marketing mix:

  1. Display ads will get more people to search for you
  2. Display ads will make people more favorable to your message

1. Display ads will get more people to search for you

According to the Harvard Business School Study “Do Display Ads Influence Search?” (read a synopsis in this Search Engine Land article), simple static metrics, commonly used in the industry, may not accurately measure the effectiveness of online advertising.”

The study found that, after two weeks, display advertising drives an increase in search volume, clicks and conversions.

As SEL points out, “[t]he researchers didn’t have any data about the offline impact of online advertising.” So it’s likely that the benefits extend beyond those shown in the study.

Further evidence to support that conclusion is offered by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book Pre-Suasion. As noted by the previous study, Cialdini explains that ““[r]ecognition/recall, a widely used index of success for all other forms of ads, might greatly underestimate the effectiveness of banner ads.”

“In the new studies, frequently interjected banners were positively rated and were uncommonly resistant to standard wear-out effects, yet they were neither recognized, nor recalled.”

ASTRALCOM explains why:

First, even though users seem to ignore them, repeated exposure to display ads has a build-up effect so that, when users view the ad on subsequent occasions, they are more favorable toward it.

Second, subsequently, the more the ad is shown, the more users tend to like it. But it’s the lack of direct notice of the banners that makes them so effective in the first two ways noted above.

In other words, banner ads work even when people don’t remember them. In fact, they may work better when they’re not remembered!

How to Generate Leads with a Display Ad Funnel

Now that we’ve seen that display ads are a very powerful medium to deliver your advertising message, let’s talk about how to use them to generate leads.

Combined with a Facebook Ad Funnel, and a targeted remarketing list, display ads will:

  1. Give your audience the perception that you’re “everywhere” which will boost your credibility.
  2. Reach your audience with the right creative at the right time (e.g., advertising a demo to someone who’s heard of your brand and visited key websites instead of someone who’s never heard of your company before).
  3. Increase favorability towards your messaging.
  4. Drive search volume.

Facebook ads are great, but their reach is limited to users of Facebook. By supplementing your Facebook ads with display ads, you can find your audience in many more places.

What is Display Advertising?

Let’s step back a second.

If you missed Display Advertising 101 in marketing school (is that a thing?), here are the basics. Originally, display ads were just banner ads. Static image ads that would lead you to a link of the advertisers choosing. Then they evolved to allow for animation. You know, like those old ads with the fly buzzing around and a hand that moved with your cursor. If you swatted the fly, you’d be taken to the advertisers website (I hope you didn’t actually fall for that).

Since the early days, display ad types have proliferated. There are lightbox ads that open up a window with advertiser content, Gmail ads, HTML5 ads that can include elements like lead capture forms, in-app ads, and more.

Display Ad Examples

Here are some examples of a few different types of display ads.

Banner Ads

These are standard display ads. Pretty vanilla, right?

Display Ad Examples - Banner Ad

Display Ad Examples - Banner Ad

GDN Lightbox Ads

This ad is more interesting than it might look. It’s a GDN lightbox ad, which is basically a popup ad that is launched when someone clicks your ad. Then within the popup, they can watch videos and see images.

GDN Lightbox Ads

Gmail Ad

This is a Gmail ad. I haven’t had too much luck with these. You pay when someone clicks to open the email, but every click after that is free.

Display Ad Examples - Gmail Ad Display Ad Examples - Gmail Ad

Display Ad Sizes

Here are some of the most common ad sizes. At the least, you’ll want to create an ad for each of these sizes, because most of the ad inventory is in these sizes. If you make ads in less common dimensions, you’ll find that your ad isn’t served as often.

Common Display Ad Sizes

If you have the time and/or budget to make ads for every size, here are all the display ad sizes that Choozle accepts:

Common Sizes
  • Desktop: 160×600, 300×250, 728×90.
  • Mobile: 160×600, 300×250, 320×50.
  • Facebook Exchange (marketplace and newsfeed) : 600×315, 1200×627
Uncommon Sizes
  • Desktop: 120×240, 120×60, 120×600, 120×90, 125×125, 125×83, 180×150, 230×230, 234×60, 240×400, 250×250, 300×100, 300×600, 320×50, 336×280, 468×60, 519×225, 544×225, 550×340, 551×299, 600×75, 720×300, 88×31, 960×325, 960×60.
  • Mobile: 180×150, 728×90.
  • Facebook: 245×133
Sizes for GDN Lightbox Ads
  • Custom Header Images: 350×75, 900×125, 1200×150
  • Logo: 50×50
  • Image Assets (these are the images inside your GDN lightbox ads, visible to people who click your ad): 1024 x 1050 maximum
  • Video: Google says “No mandatory aspect ratio, but 16:9 fits on a wide variety of screen sizes and orientations”

Display Ad Networks

There are a ton!

Google Display Network is the most popular display ad network because it’s contained inside Google AdWords, so it’s pretty easy to find. And it’s easy to use. They’ve got some fairly good targeting options (in-market audiences) and you can create tons of ads in all sizes in a flash with responsive ads (like GDN lightbox ads, for example).

On the other hand, depending on your niche and industry, you may find that Google’s inventory and placement options are too limited.

Some of the other networks out there include:

Benefits of GDN Lightbox Ads & Other Display Ad Formats

The main advantage of display advertising is that you can get a ton of exposure for much less than a paid search campaign would cost. The downside is that the CTR is typically low, and a lot of the clicks you pay for might be accidental. The bounce rate on display ads is usually pretty high.

Programmatic Display Advertising

I prefer to use Choozle for my display ads. Choozle is a demand side platform (DSP), which means you can run ads on multiple ad exchanges. (An ad exchange is just a marketplace for buying and selling ads.) It also allows access to much more robust targeting (but you pay a small premium for the data). This is known as programmatic advertising, which basically means you’re using software to automate the ad buying process.

Choozle requires a monthly fee ($99) to serve ads, but they don’t require a minimum ad spend. They do charge a premium when you use their data, but the cost should be offset by the benefits of more specific targeting.

Benefits of Programmatic Advertising

We won’t cover all of the benefits of programmatic advertising (efficiency, transparency, and more) here. But I do want to talk about the reasons programmatic advertising is the best choice for the display advertising strategy I’m going to explain in this post.


With networks like Choozle, you can use third-party data to target people in your niche. For instance, if you’re trying to target occupational therapists, the GDN doesn’t have an in-market audience for that. With Choozle, you can add occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, etc. through third party data.

I like to use this data for my Awareness ad group, which we’ll talk about in a second. This ad group is designed to feed my remarketing list with potential customers.


Since Choozle has so much more inventory than the GDN, retargeting ads are served much more frequently. This is especially important when your retargeting list is smaller. The less people there are on your list, the more important it is that your ads are able to shown wherever those few people might be. Otherwise, you’ll find that your ads are hardly served at all.

Display Ad Strategy

This strategy is similar to the Facebook ad funnel. An Awareness ad group is broadly targeted using third party data. This will feed your remarketing list. In each stage’s ad group, an ad from the next stage will serve to move leads through the buyer’s journey.

Here’s a chart to illustrate what I’m talking about:

Display Ads Funnel


The purpose of this ad group is to fill up your remarketing list with people who might be a good fit for your product or service. Since the ad is going to be delivered to a broad audience, you’ll want your ads to have a very targeted message.

But you don’t have to worry about wasting money remarketing to a bunch of people who are never going to become customers, because you don’t pay per click with programmatic advertising. You pay per 1000 impressions (CPM).

The best place to send these ads is to blog posts that address the problem you solve. But remember, gaining exposure for your messaging is the number one goal.


This ad group consists of ads that address people who are actively considering solutions to the problem you solve. You’ll create a remarketing list of people who have visited your features pages, your Consideration stage blog posts, and any other content you have that indicates a visitor who’s considering solutions.

And again, remember, exposure is the key.


This group is made up of people who have decided they want the kind of solution you offer, you just have to convince them that yours is the best. You’ll remarket to people who have visited sales pages, pricing pages, and anything else that indicates they’re ready to make a purchase.

I’ll say it one more time:

We’re aiming for exposure, not clicks.

Best Practices

There are a number of guidelines to follow in order to get the most out of your display advertising. Here are some of the most important tips for success:

Revenue Attribution

Set up goals and goal values in Google Analytics so that you can determine whether or not this campaign is working for you. By setting up UTM tracking with this campaign URL builder you can see which ads, ad groups, audiences, etc. are the most effective.

View-Through Conversions

Whether you’re using Choozle, or the GDN, or some other display ad network, make sure you’re tracking view-through conversions to get an accurate picture of the value your display campaigns are providing. A view-through conversion is a conversion that takes place after a lead has seen your display ad without clicking it, but then converts through some other channel.

Here’s an example. John Doe sees your display ad, but he doesn’t click it. Two days later, he’s still looking for a solution, and he remembers your company. He searches for you, finds your company, and converts through organic search. That’s a view-through conversion.

It’s important to track view-through conversions because one of the biggest benefits of display is brand awareness. They can be helping your cause even when people aren’t clicking on them.


Make sure that your copy isn’t too long. Even for bigger ad sizes where you have more room, keep it to about ten words or less. Even though you have more space, you still have the same amount of attention from your audience (which is to say “not much”).

For some ad formats, like GDN lightbox ads, this pertains more to the copy visible before the click. After that, you may have a little more leeway once they’re interacting with your ad.


Be clear about what you want them to do and what they’ll get if they do it. “Download Now” if you have something for them to download, “Learn More” if you’re sending them to a blog post, etc. Be careful about using “buttons” that can’t be clicked. Some ad networks don’t like that (GDN, for example). Choozle doesn’t seem to mind though.

General Data Protection Regulation

If you target people who live in the EU, be sure to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with your remarketing efforts. According to CSO:

GDPR law applies to all companies that collect and process data belonging to European Union (EU) citizens. You have every reason to fear it because failure to comply will be costly.

So make sure you’re following the rules.

Generate Leads with GDN Lightbox Ads and Other Display Ads

Now you know what you need to get started. The most time consuming part will be creating the content for your ads. The good news is that you can use it for multiple purposes: SEO, ads, content offers, etc.

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