Tim Fresen

Tim Fresen
I love educating and consulting. On a daily basis, I see many of my clients miss out on interesting opportunities, trapped in workflows that could be much more efficient. Since I mostly work with designers and marketeers that have to put on at least three different hats a day, I contribute and support where they need it most. The goal: Making their life easier while generating better results.
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Recent Posts

See, Think, Do: Making display ads relevant

Posted by Tim Fresen on December 10, 2018 at 2:19 PM

Relevance has always been a real topic in advertising. Now that programmatic ad-tech allows us to target our audience with hyper-precision, it doesn’t make sense anymore to show the same ad to all your different target audiences in each stage of the funnel. Key here is to diversify your creatives in order to optimize your campaign results. After all, your creatives are responsible for more than 50% of campaign performance. This makes being relevant the top opportunity this year.

Your creatives are responsible for more than 50% of campaign performance

For example: Showing several products in a dynamic retargeting banner is common practice. However, one of our more recent case studies shows that by showing only the most relevant product, your CPA can be cut almost in half while sales may double. Showing the right ad at the right time to the right person is the way to significantly improved results.

Although  most marketers are well aware that the buyer journey is very personal and diverse, operational cost keeps them from tailoring their ads. This hurdle is an easy one to overcome given the right tech stack. Let’s use a simple example.

A travel company wants to advertise one of its destinations, Berlin, to several key target-audiences, while keeping messaging relevant throughout the funnel. Using the See, Think, Do model, the online marketing manager creates a matrix: The customer journey is on the X-axis and the audiences on the Y-axis. As a side note: It shouldn't matter whether you're using a different model from See, Think, Do, like Touch, Tell, Sell or AIDA. Any of these models can be put on the X-axis.

DEF-TravelRay 2 

In the See stage, the goal is to target as many attention for the destination as possible, with copy that fits the various audiences. A CPM strategy is employed. The Think stage of the campaign aims to attract traffic to the website, paying per click. Finally, a retargeting banner should drive actual conversions, with a CPA strategy behind it.

Creating a total of two templates is enough to create an infinity of relevant creatives

The campaign requires nine banners in total, which can already be a daunting task for any designer. A clever approach is to create two templates: One for both the See and Think phase, the other for the Do phase. A total of 2 hours is needed to create the templates. Once finished, the different versions are created in a matter of minutes.

Using this setup, creating relevant ads is easy. An even leaner approach would be to test this approach for one audience only, allowing you to save time and money on the trafficking and ad spend. When the approach proves successful for the first audience, it’s time to reproduce for other audiences. Finally, you could choose to go live with one banner set at the time: The See banners in week one, the Think banners in week two and the Do banners in week three.

A travel agency typically has a lot more destinations than just Berlin. Following this approach, offering 100 destinations would require creating 900 banners. In this scenario dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) would be the perfect solution. Simply set up you product feed for display advertising and connect it to the two templates. Both Adroll and Google have very interesting features for dynamic prospecting.

Automation with dynamic retargeting and prospecting ads.

By setting up both your prospecting (See, Think) and retargeting (Do) ads as dynamic creatives, each individual banner will create itself, pulling in the relevant imagery, messaging and pricing from the feed. Your display ads will be hyper relevant while your time investment is reduced to a minimum. 

Need help setting up your campaigns this way? Feel free to contact us for some one-on-one sparring.

Irresistible Banner Ads

Do you know how your campaigns are performing?

Posted by Tim Fresen on September 21, 2018 at 10:53 AM

Here’s a question:

What insights do you have on how your ad campaigns are performing compared to your competitors? Using Google’s Display Benchmarks Tool and some Wordstream articles we have answered this question for you.

In 2016, the benchmark CTR for paid search ads was 2.14% and 0.41% for display ads. Interestingly, the tables turn when it comes to remarketing. Here, the CTR benchmark is 4.29% for search ads and 6.15% for display ads.

What’s your point, you may ask? Well, for those of you that are not hitting these numbers, there is a job to be done. For those of you who are, what’s to stop you from doing even better? Either way, we’d like to share some simple ideas about how you can improve your ad campaigns.



Counting on your first banner design to deliver is a huge mistake

Studies show that we get our first design right only 8% of the time. Differently put, there’s a 92% chance your banners aren’t performing as well as they could. Display ads simply aren’t tested as often as text ads. This isn’t that surprising. A while ago, A/B testing display ads was a costly and time-consuming endeavor. However, with some simple tooling, you can test your display ads just as quickly as you would test your search ads. A great place to start would be to test the basics of your banners such as the copy, your call to action, and the colors and images used in your ad. Testing these basics will help you clarify the assumptions you have about your target audience.

What to test for

When creating a display campaign you will have some assumptions on what content or colors will work best for the target audience you are trying to address. In the example below the effect of color on CTR is tested (courtesy of defransekamer.com, check out more of their awesome work on their website):


The initial assumption was that red would be the most eye-catching color since it has the best contrast. As expected, red outperformed blue by 50%. Surprisingly, red didn't outperform grey. This simple test shows that the highest CTR is yielded by banners that display products that consumers actually see themselves buying. After all, how many red and blue cars do you see driving around as opposed to neutral colored cars?

Knowledge gained by continuously testing your assumptions will lead to a better understanding of what resonates with your target audience and ultimately helps you to continuously improve the performance of your future campaigns.

Display ads have dramatic effects on conversions when combined with search

Traditionally, display is seen as a brand recognition mechanism and paid search as a conversion mechanism by marketers. Now that programmatic is common practice, display and search should no longer be planned in isolation. Studies show that display advertising has dramatic effects on conversions when combined with search. Microsoft reports a steady increase in paid search impressions (54%), clicks (72%) and conversions (47%). Moreover, a 2014 Harvard study reports a return of €1.24 for display and €1.75 for search ads for every €1 invested in display and search.


How you’re leaving money on the table

Not accounting for the synergy of search and display ads can lead to overspending on some actions and underspending on others, leaving money on the table. Going about harmonizing both disciplines starts at the planning phase of your marketing campaign. Outline your overarching campaign goals and then aligning your search and display ads towards these goals. Here’s how you could cover your whole customer journey:


Make sure to align the theme of your search campaign with your display campaign, by using the same copy in both your search and display ads. This ensures consistency in your messaging which in turn promotes trust. Another quick win is to re-target on search words with matching display ads, allowing you to upsell/cross-sell those who don’t convert. Finally, take into account all these efforts when analyzing your results. Don’t analyze each campaign as stand-alone. A display ad may not produce clickthroughs, yet may still play a critical role in influencing a purchase.


Talking to online marketers on a daily basis, I’m increasingly surprised that most seem to lack serious insights on the performance of their ad designs and, with that, in what resonates with their audience. Although I didn’t make any calculations, I feel comfortable claiming that 60% or more just don’t know. There are solutions for the disproportionate amount of energy that marketers believe to be required for setting up enough creatives to generate meaningful data. These solutions not only make marketers’ lives easier but help them learn more about their audiences and generate more revenue.

Irresistible Banner Ads