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B2B Struggles With Display Ads: What Can Publications Do?

Digital advertising and B2B aren’t exactly oil and water, but they aren’t two peas in a pod, either. At least not yet.  

Long story short: fewer B2B companies are using digital display ads, just as B2B publications are faced with the challenge of transitioning from print to digital media. Traditional trade publications have to go from monolithic to omnichannel, and retargeting means that even digital native B2B sites face stiff competition from consumer sites with much larger audiences. 

How can B2B publications bring in B2B brands for the kind of long term advertising relationships that print media saw for years?

The best place to start is to reject the notion that you can simply take physical content and transfer it to digital content. Digital media in all forms is shifting quickly, and B2B publications need to get creative. 

B2B Digital Display Advertising is Trending Downward

Let’s start by comparing apples to apples: display are critical in both digital and physical publications. A one-third pager in a print magazine is most easily compared to a banner display ad on a digital B2B property. 

Unfortunately for B2B publications, the number of companies spending on digital display ads is down. Year-over-year (Q1-Q3), B2B companies using display advertising is down 4 percent from 2018 to 2019. While the dollar amount is up by 5 percent, that can partially be explained by inflation and the increasing cost of ads. 

Source: MediaRadar

The biggest B2B industries for display advertising are pharma, financial and technology — but even those three saw only slight increases in display advertising spend YoY. The top pharma companies include Endo International, Abbott Labs, and Amgen — all of which were in the top 5 spenders for 2018 as well. 

The YoY spend does vary between industries, but for nearly half of the industries MediaRadar looked at display advertising spending went down. The industries spending less on digital displays include retail, media, industry/manufacturing, and education & training. 

Why are fewer B2B brands buying display ads with B2B publications?

Publications have to adapt not only to the fact that people aren’t reading physical publications, but also the reality that targeting means B2B advertisers can reach their B2B audience with display ads pretty much anywhere on the web.

So what can B2B publications do about it? 

B2B Struggles With Display Ads: What Can Publications Do?

How to Renew Focus on Digital Advertising

The key is to probably stop trying to compare apples to apples. Digital advertising is entirely different than physical ads, even if display ads seem equivalent. 

Instead of forcing the issue, B2B publications will do well to invest in the content that B2B brands are exploring. Moving into digital advertising is more than just taking the physical format and transitioning it to digital media. 

Look at how B2B advertisers are trying to get the most out of B2B digital advertising, and adjust accordingly. 

These brands are utilizing native ads and publications’ content studios, investing in video or longform content and exploring the opportunity of events marketing

Taking on these advertising formats is certainly a much larger investment for B2B publications than simply serving banner ads. But each offers B2B publications both a chance to set themselves apart from competition and offer a deeper, more rewarding relationship to advertising partners.