Take A Peek Behind the Curtain of Digital Advertisements

For the longest time, people followed in the steps of the Wizard of Oz, echoing the notion not to look behind the curtain when it comes to things such as advertisements or the flow of data. There was bliss in not knowing what was happening behind the scenes. With the recent surge of documentaries and docuseries, audiences have become more interested in what goes on behind the scenes. I have always had a curiosity for why and how things work. This interest has followed me into my academic journey as I seek a bachelor’s degree in economics, the study of scarcity and how to make decisions on the margin. 


There are advertisements all around us in the real world: newspaper ads, billboards, cable commercials. The best ad agencies improved not only the quality of the ad, but their efficiency too. Targeting places or people for specific products or services is nothing new, but digital ads have taken advantage of targeting to unite the consumer and the provider.  


Before starting my internship at 898 Marketing, I knew that ads were not all randomly placed, but I wanted to understand what was happening behind the curtain. Working for 898 Marketing has made me hyper-aware of advertisements and how we set ourselves up to receive ads. Most of the time, our internet activity allows for specialized ads either when we are actively searching or just browsing the web. Advertisers can show you ads for new furniture or appliances if you have been searching for apartments. They can also target you more heavily if you have already visited their site or purchased their products. Everything you do online gives advertising agencies a little more information about your preferences as a consumer.  


After agencies find their audience, they enter an auction for the ad spot. There are no flying monkeys to ward off here, only other agencies. These ad spots can be anything from a video ad on YouTube, a display ad on your favorite online journal, or a promoted search ad on Google. Advertisers decide what format to use based on what they want the ad to accomplish. Most ads do two things, drive sales or raise brand awareness. If a company wants to increase sales, they typically advertise in an area where people look for products or services they provide, such as a Google search. If raising brand awareness is the goal, video and display ads expose audiences to your brand and make them familiar.

Thanks to these improved digital ads, sellers are more efficient with their ads, and consumers see ads that are relevant to them.


Jimmy Kerrigan is one of our Summer 2021 interns who is working with the digital team on a variety of client initiatives including reporting and optimization on digital campaigns, as well as Google and SEO projects. Jimmy is currently a student at the University of Notre Dame and expects to graduate in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.