Digital Advertising: What, How, & Why?

One thing you can always depend on? The constant change and evolution of digital advertising. Check out this overview of the what, how, and why of modern digital ads.

What Is Digital Advertising? 


Digital Advertising is... 

Digital advertising uses online platforms to bring ads directly to your audience. Nowadays, digital ads account for 47.3% of overall ad spend worldwide. In Canada and the U.S. specifically, it has already surpassed 50% of all ad spend. 

This is in comparison to the combined amount spent on all forms of traditional media- including television, print, and radio. It’s expected that this share will keep rising in the coming years as digital advertising becomes more and more necessary for businesses. 

If you think about it, it only makes sense for marketing to turn almost completely towards digital forms. At this point, for businesses, being online is a necessity rather than a luxury. Old school forms of advertising (a.k.a.: anything that's not digital) basically just leave advertisers to spend their money and pray that it works.

Take a billboard for example, or a newspaper ad- you pay to display it, but there's no real way of understanding who sees it, how they react to it, and if it even results in any extra profit for your business. The goal is just to get as many eyes on it as possible, so that your odds are as high as they can be.

With the emergence of digital advertising, businesses can spend their money wisely, targeting specific audiences and meeting people where they are. Today, do you find yourself watching TV commercials, driving by billboards or reading the newspaper for hours on end? Probably not.

But, what ARE you likely doing for hours on end? What are you likely doing right now?

Scrolling. Digitally.


Types of Digital Advertising 

There are a number of different types of digital advertising. The industry covers any kind of promotional activity done online- whether it’s on social media, websites, through emails, or on a search engine.

The two biggest players in digital advertising today are Google and Facebook, respective homes to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). 


Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Digital advertising on search engines is mainly done on Google and Bing. Pay-per-click advertising through Google AdWords is the most common form of search engine marketing. Google introduced AdWords in 2000 and later AdSense in 2003, kicking off digital advertising and essentially transforming the landscape of marketing itself.


Social Media Marketing (SMM)

The other major form of digital advertising is through social media, mainly Facebook and Instagram. Facebook Ads offer the most targeted form of digital advertising, reaching sub-sections of your audience to offer the highest possible ROI. First introduced in 2007, Facebook Ads definitely have the last word in social media marketing. Now, it encompasses Instagram Ads as well, covering 2 of the most used apps in the world.



Just how widespread is digital advertising? A whopping 52% of buying decisions can be traced back to Facebook. Considering that 73% of Canadians spend a minimum of 3 hours per day online- this number is not all that surprising. 

Google searches are made well over 3 million times per day, with this number increasing by 10% each year. Around 35% of these searches are for products, meaning that digital ads give your business the chance to be in the right place at the right time to gain more leads. 

Digital advertising is essential to any business today- but, strategy and implementation can drastically change how effective it is.

How Do Digital Ads Work? 

They Leverage Existing Trust

Platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are already widely used and trusted among consumers. Digital ads allow you to reach customers on the platforms that they are already using, paying for ad space that maximizes relevance for the user. While ads are clearly marked as such, they appear in feeds that people are already purposely using.



PPC ads, or pay-per-click, allow businesses to post ads and pay based on the amount of people who click on them. This is a great method for advertisers with strict budgets, and it allows for a quick analysis of campaign success. Facebook ads use this method, charging advertisers for each time someone clicks on an ad.  

Search engine marketing, on the other hand, uses both organic and paid strategies to reach customers. SEO is of the essence when trying to reach customers who are making web searches. With optimized web presence, your company will reach people who are searching for relevant topics or keywords. 


How Are They Applied? 

Both SEM and PPC principles are used across different platforms and mediums. PPC ads can be placed on websites, search engine result pages, and social media platforms- all contributing to an advertiser’s overall digital presence. These two methods are best used in conjunction with organic traffic strategies and optimization. 

Why Is Digital Advertising Effective? 


More Dynamic

Digital advertising is far more dynamic and flexible than any form of traditional media. It’s the most cost-effective way to reach your customers, thanks to the fact that social media is so widely used. 

Digital advertising is accessible to smaller businesses and larger ones alike, as opposed to traditional formats which are largely monopolized and expensive

The sheer amount of people who use social media, and the amount of hours they spend online, leads to significant benefits and efficiency. Let's go over some of them.



Digital advertising offers the chance to target specific audiences, allowing your business to reach people who have relevant interests and purchase histories.This means that you are not wasting time or money advertising to uninterested audiences. Every platform has a different form of targeting, but there are basic demographics that are generally given, such as the following:

  • Location
  • Age & gender
  • Interests
  • Buying patterns/consumer behaviour

This is all possible due to the nature of social media: people share, and advertisers are then able to present more relevant ads to them. Targeting actually benefits both the business and the consumer. It allows businesses to gain a higher return on investment and fine-tune their marketing budgets, but it also allows consumers the ease of seeing more and more relevant ads. The consumer doesn't have to go anywhere or make any effort- the products and services they want are brought directly to them.


Digital marketing efforts are the most trackable and measurable forms of advertising. Using digital media allows you to see the specifics of what works and what doesn’t- consistently increasing ROI and decreasing wasted time. Keeping an eye on click-through rates, conversion rates, and which ads result in the highest success. 

Consider traditional media again for a moment: there's no real way of understanding if people resonated with your newspaper ad. At least, not in a very detailed way. With a Facebook Ad, you can analyze everything an audience does in reaction to the ad. You can understand how many people clicked, how many went to your website, how many added to cart, and how many actually converted. Every step along the way, you can track your metrics.


The Buying Journey

Even before searching for a specific product, customers begin perusing and asking questions online. About 93% of online experiences start off on a search engine. If you want to reach people, it’s essential to have a strong digital presence. 


No one can argue the fact that the world has gone digital. People are online, and they're online a lot. As a business, reaching them there is not only beneficial to you- it's necessary. It's also necessary to remember that digital marketing is constantly evolving.

It's not an ancient art- the internet itself is still only a handful of decades old. This means that you've got to stay on your toes, be creative, and constantly challenge yourself to learn more about the landscape of digital advertising.

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