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Better Ways to Spend a Little Slice of the B2B Marketing Budget Designated for Display Ads

B2B marketing should take a little slice of the display ad budget and invest in media relations, genuine content marketing (not marketing content) and paid distribution of related assets from both 

Numbers like these from eMarketer make my head explode:

“US B2B display ad spending on LinkedIn will total $3.01 billion in 2022 and grow to $4.56 billion by 2024.”


Display ads are notoriously weak performers. For example, a study – data analysis from one adtech company puts the CTR rate of LinkedIn ads at .67%. In other words, if you show an ad to 1,000 people 6.7 will click it.

That’s a pretty generous measure too. Benchmarking CTR data for consumer display ads on Google range from an abysmal .09% to .27%.

I’m not here to bash advertising or LinkedIn. Both have a deserved place in the marketing mix. LinkedIn had done a lot of good with it’s think tank and restitution of the value of branding and genuine thought leadership in B2B marketing.

But that doesn’t make a CTR of less than 1% any better.

Further, I’m always amazed at how business leaders will throw money – literally billions of dollars – at advertising, but when PR or content marketing asks for a dollar, everyone stands around with their arms crossed and skeptically asks, “but what’s the ROI?”

I’m exaggerating for effect…but only a little bit.

More to the point, just a fraction of that very large display advertising budget (or Super Bowl commercial) can make huge strides toward sustainable marketing and communications programs that will reap compounding benefits over time.

Instead, take a little slice of the giant display ad budget and consider investing in these areas:

“US B2B display ad spending on LinkedIn will total $3.01 billion in 2022 and grow to $4.56 billion by 2024.”

1) Media relations

Media relations – a classic function of PR – has never been harder because there’s so much noise and fewer bona fide journalists. But the value of third-party credibility still goes a long way.

Augment outreach with a paid social media budget – and the budget to properly amplify the coverage you do earn because coverage begets coverage.

The key to success is showing up consistently with good stories that add value to the public conversation – rather than hard selling. In other words, pitch a story, not a product.

2) Content marketing (not “marketing content”)

The purpose of true content marketing is to build a subscribed audience. Display advertising is essentially renting an audience – why not invest in building one that you own?

When done right –

…producing useful, relevant content

…that’s written like journalism

…with a strong point of view through your unique lenses and

…published at the same place

…at the same time

…consistently over time

…and facilitates subscriptions by email

– it becomes an engine that compliments every other aspect of marketing and communications, including PR, search, brand, leadgen and sales enablement.

The first-party data you own can also be used to improve the ROAS of any display ads you are running – especially retargeting. If the long-delayed demise of third party cookies ever comes to pass, businesses that have invested all along will be head and shoulders above their peers.

3) Paid distribution of related assets

A great way to tie this all together is to invest in distribution like sponsored posts, sponsored emails from publishers, and paid social media.

Wait, you say! You were just trashing display ads, and now you are talking about sponsored media?

Yes, and under three related conditions:

a) to help drive awareness of your thought leadership among journalists and influencers with a very passive pitch that augments existing outreach;

b) to make sure more of your target audience sees the coverage you do get; and

c) to engage in a rent-to-own strategy for growing your audience.


Turn your best-performing blog post into a sponsored article in your best trade publication. Run promoted tweets on that media announcement – and target journalists, bloggers, podcasters and influencers. Boost the visibility of that media placement on social media – like Twitter and LinkedIn.

This will supplement your PR efforts nicely and invite members of another audience to become part of yours.

* * *

The aforementioned eMarketing research says B2B ad spending on LinkedIn will grow by about one-third (29.7%) year-over-year in 2022. That’s an extra 2 clicks per 1,000 people that see such ads, which is a lot of money for a small benefit.

My suggestion is to take that percentage of the budget and try putting it into one of these areas above.

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Image credit: Unsplash

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