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It has been 30 years since the first banner ad appeared on Wired’s online subsidiary, HotWire, with a headline that read “Have You Ever Clicked Your Mouse Here.” This was the public’s introduction to digital advertising.

Over the last few decades, digital advertising has continued to evolve and innovate in profound ways. Targeting and tracking capabilities have become increasingly sophisticated, and advertising platforms continue to become more advanced.  

These advancements have caused the public’s perception to sway in both negative and positive ways. Some people see it as an invasive way to advertise your company or business. Others see it as a great way to learn about local companies or new products.  

The real question is:

How can marketers learn from the public’s sentiment to optimize digital advertising strategies? 


One astonishing fact about the first-ever display ad launched by HotWire is that over a three-month period it had a 44% click-through-rate. The success of the campaign convinced a lot of marketers to start utilizing display advertising. As more marketers started using display campaigns the platform became more tailored for marketers, identifying relevant websites to have the ads placed.  

Doubleclick was a company that was crucial in advertisers’ ability to target more relevant audiences through a service called D.A.R.T (Dynamic Advertising Reporting & Targeting). This was so important because it gave advertisers the ability to see new metrics like how many times an ad was viewed and clicked. It also gave advertisers the ability to make changes to a campaign in real time.  

In 2000, Google released Google AdWords (now Google Ads) which gave way to the original pay-for-placement model that eventually became pay-per-click. This innovation led to the popularity of search advertising campaigns.  

This also led to several media channels launching their own platforms throughout the 2000’s. In 2005, YouTube launched its advertising platform, and in 2006, Facebook started sponsored links and display ads tailored to user demos and interests. In 2009, Native advertising launched, which allowed advertisers to be more discreet by having ads displayed alongside regular content.  


Despite all these advancements, there are still many challenges when it comes to creating a successful digital advertising strategy. One of the main challenges is reaching the correct audience and providing that audience with a user-friendly experience. About half of adult U.S. internet users said when brands use their data in advertising, it helps them discover (50%) and find (49%) products and services that interest them—but 44% said this often feels invasive, per a March 2021 Merkle survey 

According to data from Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends, 16th Edition, users’ sentiment depends on how the ad is served. Ads that pop up during video streams do not perform as well as ads that appear on social media platforms. Obviously the less invasive format will resonate better with users.  

Also not surprising is that sentiments change by generation. What resonates with a Boomer user will most likely not resonate with Generation Z user. These seemingly simple factors make a big difference when creating a digital advertising strategy.  

Over time, these sentiments change depending on the generation that you belong to. Based on how sentiments change, advertising platforms will adjust in the attempt to optimize advertising performance. As platforms and sentiments evolve, marketers need to also adjust when creating different strategies. 


As digital advertisements became more invasive, consumers and companies began to amplify consumer privacy. The rise of consumer privacy has taken a toll on digital marketers’ ability to track performance and conversions. Apple’s iOS updates put the decision in consumers hands in terms of opting in to tracking – and we’ve learned from the data that most Apple users do not opt in.  

This has also had a massive impact on digital marketers’ ability to utilize third party data resulting in more reliance on first party data. These recent updates to consumer privacy have led marketers to create better content and personalization, which in turn enhances the overall user experience.  

By utilizing machine learning and AI data tools to analyze massive amounts of data, you can create buyer personas that will help you with personalized content. Prioritizing personalization will reach the proper audience segments, which will help improve user sentiment toward your advertising content.  

Digital marketing is an industry that is never static. Platforms update daily and consumer preferences change, which creates the need for digital marketers to remain dynamic. Consumer sentiment doesn’t (usually) change overnight, but advertising performance can really paint a picture of changes to come. Keeping a pulse on the public’s behavior and sentiment is a crucial part of creating strategic campaigns.  

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