When businesses think of digital marketing, search advertising is usually the first option that comes to mind. Well-known brands such as and Best Buy had over 7 billion impressions online in 2013 alone, so it is little wonder this is the case. With a projected search advertising spend for 2015 that is estimated $25 billion, running search advertising campaigns is still one of the best things you can do as a business, but it is important to remember that your users are not always on Google or other search engines. They engage in other online activities such as staying on top of their email, checking their social media for notifications, and watching the latest YouTube video that has gone viral. There are numerous other campaign methods and targeting options you can utilize that extend beyond the realm of search engines. You should use these other forms of online advertising at points of your conversion funnel where you are losing users to guide them back to your website. Below are a few examples of the best online advertising campaigns for the top, middle, and bottom of the conversion funnel.

Advertising to the Top of the Funnel:

The top of the funnel includes a massive amount of users who are wandering the Internet with no particular motive to research or purchase anything. Your business goals at this point in the buying process should center on generating awareness so users start perusing through your content and messaging. For the top of the funnel, you should invest in some form of display advertising because it can reach a large audience that will start to bring users to your website.

Display Ad Spending

A common misconception about display advertisements is that they tend to be banner ads that most users immediately close upon seeing. By looking at the graph above, however, you can see that the proportion of budget spending on banner advertisements is dropping and projected to continually drop through 2018, while spending on video and rich media advertisements will continue to grow. Digital marketers are focusing on these types of advertisements in order to drive engagement stand out from the heavy competition on the internet to gain the attention of users. Below are two examples of innovative campaigns that went outside of the box in terms of typical display advertisements.


Samsung was launching the newest line of their Galaxy Note smartphones and wanted to raise awareness of the product launch in New Zealand. Samsung partnered with a famous New Zealand cartoonist to create a series of advertisements to be displayed on the highly trafficked and locally popular New Zealand Herald website. As New Zealanders would frequent the site and read news articles, the Samsung ads would pop up on the right side of the webpage and a live-action hand would draw a cartoon on the new Galaxy Note with its stylus pen.

Samsung Display Ad

The cartoon related to and commented on the news that the users were reading. Samsung wasn't disrupting the user experience on the site - merely enhancing it. By having the cartoons relate to the news articles, Samsung was able to show the capabilities of their product and successfully generate awareness, while staying relevant to the audience of the New Zealand Herald.



IKEA launched a store in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2012 where only 17% of the market population even knew what IKEA was. As a result, their challenge was to spread brand awareness. They started out by identifying the highest volume traffic websites in Winnipeg and placing display advertisements on these sites with homepage take-over banner style advertisements.

Ikea Display Ads

Upon entering one of the websites, users would be bombarded with outdated looking spammy banner advertisements. Immediately after these advertisements popped up on the homepage however, IKEA curtains would appear and close over the advertisements. A second later, one of the curtains would open with a simple IKEA greeting. There was no call to action or push towards conversion, and the goal of the messaging was to spread awareness of the new IKEA store in Winnipeg and to encourage users to keep their brand in mind when shopping for curtains in the future.

Advertising to the Middle of the Funnel:

If you have generated awareness and users have become familiar with your brand, it's time to change your goals and campaigns to target users that are in the middle of the funnel segment. Your goal is to bring one-time visitors back to your site repeatedly and to provide them with content that can educate them about your product or service. The best way to bring these visitors back to your website is through a strong social media presence.

Social Media Funnel Position

The graph above is an AOL case study during Q1 of 2014 on how social media factors into online buying behaviors. AOL tracked 500 million clicks that led to 15 million conversions across their networks. What they found was that users in the middle of funnel, by far, had the most engagement with social media platforms. Users who are aware of a brand and are considering a purchase will research how strong the social media presence of that company is, and read reviews on what other users have said about customer service and brand quality. It's worth noting that on social media, you can't just post your website content word for word and expect qualified leads. You have to be creative, interesting, and engage users as the examples below demonstrate.


Dyson came out with a new bladeless fan and uploaded a YouTube video with their founder explaining how the fan functioned. This pretty mundane video ended up getting 71,000 interactions on YouTube. Dyson then decided to upload another YouTube video with a balloon going through an obstacle course of their new fans.

There is no voiceover or call to action, and the video is on the longer side of a YouTube advertisement at about 2 minutes long. Nonetheless, this new video ended up with nearly 3 million interactions on YouTube. This is a great case study of how sometimes middle of the funnel users do not want to be oversaturated with a prominent call to action. By simply entertaining them with your products or services, you can create a lasting emotional connection that can lead to brand trust and eventual sales.

Advertising to the Bottom of the Funnel:

At this point of the conversion funnel, your users are on the cusp of converting. They are educated on your products or service, and they understand how it will benefit them. Your goal is to avert any objections and answer any lingering questions or doubts users may have, so that they can feel secure in making a purchase. Bottom of the funnel users are where most of your conversions are going to come from, so mobile advertising is a great option that will help you get a leg up on your competition.

Mobile Ad Growth Potential

Over time, more users are willing to make purchases on their mobile devices. As the graph above shows, mobile advertising is estimated to grow dramatically in rich media and video content between now and 2018. If your potential customers need a final push before purchasing, getting them to use their favorite handheld device with your brand's mobile website or app might seal the conversion. The example below is an intuitive example of how a brand used their mobile application to upsell their products and have a more successful event.

Mobile US Open

The 2014 U.S. Open Tennis Championships relaunched their mobile app for the U.S. Open this year. What made this year's version of the app different from previous years was that instead of just providing match times and a map, it leveraged beacon technology so that as users were walking around the U.S. Open grounds they would receive alerts about nearby events or sales on their mobile device. These alerts would let them know if they were in the vicinity of autograph signings, vendors that were selling specific U.S. Open gear, and other promotional offers that they could redeem. People attending the U.S. Open would have no qualms about downloading the app, since it would help them more easily navigate the event. By also informing them of vendors they were close to, promotions they could receive with a purchase, and other great incentives, the U.S. Open app helped sway users towards converting at the event without appearing to be sales-oriented.

Online Advertising is Bigger Than Search Advertising

As a business that is expanding its efforts to the digital market, you can easily forget that there is much more to online advertising than search advertising. Yes, search advertising is very important for maintaining high levels of organic traffic to your website, but your users are not always on Google or other search engines. They can be reached through other websites using display advertisements, email campaigns, mobile apps, and your brand's social media presence. Find the points of your conversion funnel where you are losing potential customers and redirect them back to your brand using creative and innovative campaign methods and targeting options that aren't as competitive as search advertising. When done correctly, you should see your sales numbers and conversion rate improve. What other display advertising techniques have you used effectively (or not effectively) outside of AdWords? Let us know in the comments below.

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