Feb 03, 2023

5 Pillars of Digital Advertising and How They’re Used

“Digital advertising” is a catch-all phrase that was coined to refer to any kind of online promotion. It’s an umbrella term that often gets used in lieu of more precise terminology.

So what do we mean when we talk about digital advertising? To answer that, we’ll need to break down the building blocks of the digital marketing industry. Keep reading to learn more about the five types of digital advertising and how you can use them to grow your business.

illustration of young people viewing digital ads while on their phones

5 Pillars of Digital Advertising

There are five broad categories of digital advertising:

  • Paid Search
  • Paid Social
  • Display
  • Video
  • Audio

Between all five of these together, the global digital ad spend reached $600 billion in 2022, and researchers predict it could surpass $800 billion by 2025.

Each of these formats has a different way of reaching its target audience. Some of them overlap while others share certain characteristics. In fact, some of the most effective campaigns use all five pillars strategically to engage with users so that their brand can be more memorable.

But before we get into a full funnel marketing strategy, we’ll break down each pillar so you know what’s best for your business.

Paid Search in Digital Advertising

Paid search is when marketers pay search engines to showcase their ads on their results pages in order to get clicks for their website. Advertisers bid on keywords that will trigger their ads, and those with the highest bids typically receive the highest ad position on the results page. To create an ad with a high-quality score, you have to consider the ad’s relevance, the relevance of your landing page, and the expected click-through rate (CTR).

Google dominates the paid search category. At the end of 2022, Google retained almost 84% of the total spend share. It’s no secret that people immediately go to Google when they need answers. Often referred to as the king of conversion, paid search’s primary objective is to drive immediate business objectives such as sales and leads. It’s a highly effective way to quickly reach target audiences and track results due to the nature of its high-intent searches.

So while building a paid search campaign, it’s important to strategize your keywords using PPC tools such as Google’s Keyword planner and SEMRush. Research your keywords’ volume, intent, and average cost-per-click (CPC) to get an idea of their average performance metrics. You should use both broad and niche non-branded keywords in your top-of-funnel campaigns, but consider using branded keywords in your lower funnel campaigns because the people who search for them are the true hand-raisers.

When considering an appropriate budget, remember that broad keywords can be expensive in terms of your competition. Ultimately, we recommend assessing branded, broad, and niche to determine what’s best for your brand.

Google’s new automated objective-based campaigns, Performance Max and Smart Campaign, make suggestions that will truly improve your advertising. Nearly all full-funnel campaigns using Google Search perform well using Google’s other objectives alongside it at some capacity. The ability to blend the user experience and reach them in different, creative ways is tremendously helpful and absolutely shows in the final results.

Paid Social in Digital Marketing

If paid search is the king of conversion, paid social is the queen of consideration. Its value lies in promoting aesthetically pleasing products and services to target audiences on social media platforms.

Marketers have access to key user data such as age, gender, location, interests, and behaviors which helps tailor their approach to reaching the right consumer. By leveraging targeted ads, marketers can create campaigns that are more likely to resonate with their desired audience. Paid social offers an authentic and engaging method to connect with people, while also providing a measurable way to track the success of campaigns.

In the chaotic world of mainstream media, social platforms are constantly evolving. There will always be a shiny new platform that the next generation flocks to. However, let’s address some of the advertising leaders in 2023.

illustration of people viewing digital ads on social media

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram

In June 2022, Facebook changed its name to Meta, a Greek prefix meaning after or beyond. Also known as the metaverse, it symbolizes the medium for communication that bridges physical and virtual experiences. Meta oversees a couple of the most popular platforms on the internet:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Oculus VR

Within Meta, Facebook and Instagram are some of the top performing paid social platforms, racking in billions of dollars each year. Their success lies in reaching potential consumers and allowing businesses to create targeted campaigns to produce brand awareness and generate sales. Additionally, both platforms are efficient nurturing tools. By generating relevant content, advertisers can nurture existing relationships by providing updates and other relevant information.

Ultimately, businesses can use Facebook and Instagram to measure the success of their campaigns, track conversions, and gain insights into consumer behavior.

  1. Producing Ads on Facebook and Instagram

When it comes to producing ad creatives that convert, it’s important to remember that authenticity matters. These platforms are all about engagement and connection. Creative content should focus on driving conversation, sparking reactions, and inspiring dialogue. As on all platforms, ads should be tailored to the target audience and have a clear call-to-action based on the objective.

Testing is always recommended – different creative formats, tactics and strategies can help to determine the best approach for creating successful campaigns. You may even want to test your ad format with your campaign objective:

  • Awareness or engagement → single image or video
  • Traffic → single image
  • Sales or conversion → single image or carousel
  1. Create for Mobile First

About 91% of social users view the platform from their phone. That’s why you need to check your aspect ratio to confirm you’ve properly optimized the ad for mobile viewing. Your ad should contain a single focal point to make it easier for consumers to recognize what you’re trying to convey.

When users read the copy, they should quickly understand the value of what you’re selling. Include a strong call-to-action (CTA) that encourages the user to act instead of scroll. Make your CTA clear and visible so that customers know exactly what they must do to take advantage of your offer.


Recently, Twitter made headlines when Elon Musk, investor and business magnate, bought it for $44 billion. Twitter was millennials’ platform of choice about 15 years ago, following close behind Facebook. But ever since, the platform’s been on a downward spiral. Only time will tell if Musk’s acquisition resulted in any return.

Twitter is a microblogging and social networking platform that puts emphasis on short, textual updates. In recent years, journalists, celebrities, and politicians flocked to the platform to use it as their primary communication medium with the general public. The platform holds approximately 450 million monthly active users. Since its recent acquisition, however, Twitter has lost many of its users due to its new rules and associated fees.

Like Facebook and Instagram, businesses can also advertise on Twitter. The platform contains a large variety of ad types:

  • Promoted Ads
  • Follower Ads
  • Twitter Amplify
  • Twitter Takeover
  • Twitter Live
  • Dynamic Product Ads
  • Collection Ads
  • Twitter Ad Features

Many advertisers are holding off on using the platform due to the media mayhem surrounding it. If your business has nothing to do with journalism or public figures, there are most likely better platforms to reach your niche audiences.


Almost 24% of companies within the US operate within the B2B sector. Of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn houses the most influential B2B audience of any on the internet. If your company’s goal is to exchange products, services, or information with another business, then LinkedIn is your ideal advertising tool.

LinkedIn houses the world’s largest professional network. Total ad spending in 2022 reached $3.01 billion and is expected to grow to $4.56 billion by 2024.

Although the platform is expensive, it features targeting techniques advertisers cannot access anywhere else. LinkedIn has deep zero-party data, meaning all targeting information you have access to routes back to manual user input. Real people fill out their profiles as well as company pages.

The platform has access to highly detailed user information that members choose to share freely. That means you can use LinkedIn’s targeting tools to market to incredibly specific marketing segments you wouldn’t be able to reach anywhere else. You have a high degree of control over who you’re speaking to: that can result in high quality leads, provided you understand your core audience.


TikTok is a short-form video-sharing platform that has quickly become the go-to social media for creative users and the younger generation. With a killer algorithm, iIt allows users to create and share video content, quirky sounds, and amusing filters. The platform has seen remarkable growth in recent years, with approximately 834.3 million monthly users.

illustration of tik tok ad collection

  • On average, TikTok users spend about 50 minutes on the platform per day.
  • 60% of active users spend more than 10 hours a week.
  • 90% of active users access the app every day.
  • The engagement rate for TikTok on accounts with 100,000 followers is 5%, compared to Instagram at 1% and Twitter at 0.3%.

At first glance, you’d think these statistics would translate to advertising heaven. However, this is only the case for the brands that embrace TikTok’s ethos of authenticity.

Ads must blend in. While Facebook and Instagram depend on higher quality production, a Nielsen study discovered that 43% of heavy TikTok users feel that ads should seamlessly blend with their organic content.

To attract and engage users, brands must create genuine, entertaining content. It can be creative, inspiring, or eye-catching, but above all, authentic. Additionally, brands must stay in-tune with relevant audio clips and trends.

So far ad spending trends on TikTok have defied the general slowdown. According to figures released by eMarketer and Insider Intelligence, TikTok ad revenue accounted for 2.4% of digital ad spending in 2022, compared to just 1% in 2021. Total revenue is projected to hit more than $11 billion by 2024 and take up 3.5% of digital ad spending.

Unfortunately, producing authentic-feeling content represents only one hoop advertisers must jump through. The US government has repeatedly sounded the alarm surrounding data privacy and mental health issues. In 2023, officials started introducing bills into the Senate to permanently ban the app.

With all that, if you have the creative talent to make some eye catching videos for TikTok, do it while you have the chance.

Display Advertising

Online display advertising started on a bad note by bombarding internet users in the early 2000s. Pesky pop ups focused more on inhibiting users from what they were doing rather than trying to produce a sale.

In 2022, over 90% of all digital display ad dollars were transacted programmatically. Programmatic advertising simply means the use of software to automate the buying, placement, and optimization of digital advertising. It uses algorithms to buy advertising space in real-time. Plus, it enables brands to target specific audiences and deliver highly relevant, personalized ads to those audiences.

Like most marketing campaigns, display advertising is effective when the goal and the audience are clearly defined. While growth in programmatic display spending did see a bit of a slowdown in 2022, advertisers spent approximately $123 billion. And like other channels, display can reach your consumers across all parts of the advertising funnel.

illustration of man climbing into display ads on website

Ads are mostly bought through the cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) model. An impression is considered an opportunity to see and is counted once an ad is displayed on a website. Other buying models include:

  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Cost per lead (CPL)

Rich media encourages users to interact with ads through the use of animation. An animated display ad is usually created through an HTML file. Platforms such as Bannersnack and Canva. However, gifs can also work.

Additionally, native ads appear as thumbnails that integrate within the content of a website for a seamless experience. They typically match the website’s content and brand, so they can easily be mistaken for organic content.

However, the ads must explicitly state if they are powered or sponsored by another advertising entity.

To effectively run display ads, you must know your audience well. Design content that speaks to target customers, and remember to test and retest for optimal results.

Digital Video

Streaming and online video have become absolute powerhouses in entertainment and advertising. Moreover, many state that this year will be the climax of the streaming wars.

Online video consists of several formats, including streaming services, social media shorts, webinars, vlogs, and many more. Many of the streaming services – such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu – invest in producing original content to differentiate themselves within the marketplace. All aim to make their services easily accessible.

From an advertising perspective, the video streaming market can feel harder to navigate. There are many different distribution platforms each with their own different ways to purchase media buys. Some terms you might have encountered include:

  • Over-the-top (OTT) – OTT video is delivered through the internet without the need for a traditional cable or satellite subscription. This system has become increasingly popular, as it provides viewers with convenient access to all of their favorite shows and movies at a much lower cost.
  • Connected TV (CTV) – CTV refers to a device that you input into a TV to enable it to play OTT content. Xbox, PlayStation, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV are all great examples.
  • In-Stream Digital Video – This is the most common form of video watched on a Smart TV, computer or mobile device. Examples of platforms that use in-stream digital video media buys include YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, and more.

Regardless of where you watch online video, the two most popular ways of purchasing it consist of either buying it directly or programmatically.

illustration of women surrounded by digital video ads selecting play button

Programmatic Video

Programmatic Video follows the same process as programmatic display. Know your goal and know your audience. Purchasing video programmatically is a convenient and cost-effective way to access a wide variety of content. Additionally, it provides a more personalized experience since the content is tailored to the user’s interests. For brands, it costs less compared to buying TV via Upfront, Scatter, or the streaming service directly.

That being said, you can also purchase tv or digital video programming through many of the streaming services directly or indirectly. For example, you can purchase NBC content via Hulu’s self service platform or directly through one of their sales reps.

Advertisers usually purchase video through the CPM method, similar to display. However, they can also purchase it using the view thru rate, skippable or non-skippable methods. CPMs vary greatly, but on average, the range should run from $10 to $60.

Lastly, marketers are currently testing new interactive experiences within their ads. Virtual and augmented reality offer viewers an immersive experience that can leave a lasting impression. It’s an exciting time for online video, as new technologies continue to develop, allowing viewers access to an ever-growing library of entertainment.

Digital Audio

Unlike the confusion surrounding online video ad buys, the digital audio market is more straightforward. Two types of digital audio ad buys exist: digital radio and podcasting. Both have the potential to reach large audiences through streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. Furthermore, digital audio ads are cost-effective, targeted, and highly engaging, giving businesses an effective way to reach consumers.

Digital Radio Advertising

Like terrestrial radio, digital radio ads feature similar 15 to 30 second spots or sponsorships. They provide access to endless content genres ranging from music, news, sports, and more. Plus, digital radio includes the ability to target a narrower demographic using a wider range of content. Measuring campaign success is also easier as ads can feature a clickable display banner.

Podcast Advertising

Podcasts are much newer than digital radio, and from an advertising perspective, a bit more exciting. Also considered digital audio programs, people can access podcasts through online subscriptions and downloads. These programs typically include conversations between hosts, lectures, music, storytelling, and more. Most podcasts are free to listen to and can be found on platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Their format consists of a traditional talk show radio program. With over 400 million listeners, researchers expect podcast ad spending to surge in the near future. In the US alone, they expect figures to exceed $2 billion.

Podcast Ad Trends

A few trends exist that researchers expect to gain traction through 2023. Listeners that have higher content standards also have higher expectations.

Users expect their podcasts to have high audio quality as well as expect hosts to be an expert within their genre. Additionally, they expect hosts to have an omnichannel presence. Not only will they need to have stellar content, they must promote their podcast via social media to build their brand and help attract new listeners.

Voice search optimization is continuing to develop standard practices. According to Google, 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile instead of typing. This is one of the reasons Google introduced a podcast search feature that enables people to listen to podcasts through the search results, and allows users to search for suitable podcasts based on any keywords in the episode. Podcasters should be creating SEO-focused content to ensure their show appears when searched.

Digital Marketing Experts

Successful digital marketing campaigns require a lot of work. They also require seamless omnichannel integration, meaning advertisers must bridge platform objectives to reach one common goal. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you don’t have professional guidance.

At Cordelia Labs, our team combines advanced methodologies, industry expertise, and best practices to ensure your PPC strategy is aligned with your business goals and top ROI. We more than doubled ROAS for a client that was already getting great returns and gave them their best summer season on record.

If you’re tired of overspending and underperforming, contact us to schedule a discovery call. We’re excited to show you what we can do.