Display and paid search have historically been treated like oil and water: two things that can never be mixed.

This situation is changing, though, thanks to both technology and a greater understanding of performance marketing in advertisers’ marketing teams. It seems the two channels are now closer than ever before and ready to create something of a synergy for those who combine their campaigns.

What happened?

When we look at the convergence of display and paid search, we’re looking at a consequence of movement and inspiration. Marketers, instead of working in silos, have taken the best of both worlds to improve each of them. 

This is a trend seen in the wider marketing industry, but display and paid search have crafted their own route towards making this happen.

1. Bids

Since 2010 we have seen display copying the paid search business model – the automatic bidding system – choosing which ads are going to appear according to their bid and their quality.

The display networks weren’t working as well as they do now, so targeting options and the potential reach for display real-time bidding (RTB) was limited.

Nowadays, we have a full panel of experienced players. From demand-side platforms to supply-side platforms, through to ad exchanges, networks and yield management tools, the ground is well-cultivated for huge development. 

In France, more than 25% of display investments are done through RTB solutions, and in the US, the 50% level was passed last year.

2. Retargeting

In parallel, paid search is also taking inspiration from display, especially in retargeting. 

Everyone recognises its strengths and potential, and players like Criteo or NextPerformance have built solid reputations though display retargeting.

But in 2013, Google launched Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). This solution allowed AdWords users to optimise their search campaigns by targeting delivery to tailored audiences, made up of previous visitors to the merchant’s site. A concept pretty close to traditional retargeting, but adapted to Google’s solutions and offers. 

In 2015, Bing followed the same path and launched its own keyword retargeting solution, confirming the interest of all major traffic drivers in such technologies.

3. Images

Another link between paid search and display are images. (Wait, paid search and images?)
While SERPs were for a long time synonymous with austerity, more and more pictures are now appearing. These include:

  • Logos and illustrations on branded requests on Google
  • Image extensions on Bing allowing users to upload high-resolution photos in their ads. This feature is still in its early development, with impressive enhancements planned for the near future.
  • Gmail Ads gained a debut last year, allowing advertisers to target Gmail users by email content (close to keyword targeting) while using a creative combination of text teasers and a visual creative. 
  • Last but not least, shopping solutions – in particular Google’s Product Listing Ads – are gaining even more visibility since February 2016 with the removal of text ads in the right column of Google’s result pages.

4. Networks

On top of the above, paid search’s main players have all developed options to deliver display ads on their own partner network. Thus, Google’s Display Network, Yahoo!’s Display Network and even Yandex’s Content Network have appeared.

While they don’t offer a reach comparable to full RTB solutions (linked to several networks), they do allow merchants to place a first step in the area, thanks to an interface close to what they already know, and simple options to start the campaigns.

5. PMAs

We couldn’t finish things off without underlining that the Performance Marketing Awards themselves have decided to group together in a single category “Paid Search” and “Media” campaigns. 

What’s next?

In 2016, the “omnichannel” approach has really created a new vision that has allowed marketers to take advantage of this convergence.  Certain tools have existed for a few years, but without a vision, they don’t bring you far. 

The latest offshoot in the convergence of display and paid search is native advertising. Widely discussed since 2015, it isn’t yet a major part of the marketer’s investment (around €5 billion for Europe according to Enders Analysis in 2015, versus €34 billion for display in total). 

What is interesting with native is that we now have educated marketers, but also more and more educated visitors and customers, who are looking for a positive experience with advertising messages. 

If native can be an answer to this expectation, it clearly has huge potential. 

Pierre will be presenting a session on managing the display and paid search convergence at PMI: Europe. Click here to see the full agenda.