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(eM+C)—”By 2016, advertisers will spend as much on interactive marketing as they do on television advertising today. Investment in search marketing, display advertising, email marketing, mobile marketing and social media will near $77 billion and represent 26 percent of all advertising, as interactive channels gain legitimacy in the marketing mix.” — U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast report by Forrester Research

Sounds almost like science fiction, doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought that online advertising could ever come close to approaching the same spend that television advertising campaigns command. Yet the numbers are in, and online advertising does nothing but increase in popularity—and legitimacy—as time goes on.

The opportunities for interactive marketing via online channels are as diverse as they are potentially profitable, and tracking interactive ads that are run in conjunction with traditional search reveals the more interactive you are with consumers, the better able you are to convert them into a customer—or a fan or a continuously engaged customer, whatever the goal of an advertising campaign may be.

True interaction begins with ubiquity, with putting a brand on display. Display advertising is the new darling of interactive ad campaigns. The medium allows an advertiser to be as ubiquitous as they want to be.

While display advertising was, for a time, the medium with the lowest results, recent advancements which enable advertisers to choose how, when and to whom their ads are displayed have taken them from zero to hero in a very short time span.

Interactive marketing is about a conversation that you have with your customers. It won’t always be a two-sided conversation, but it must consist of a dialog, and as we all know, nothing is less interesting than someone having a conversation with you when you’re not interested in the subject matter.

This is where the ability to retarget consumers with display advertising becomes an important part of the conversation. You can set your display ads to be shown to people who have come to your site, therefore expressing an interest in your conversation, and have your ads shown to them through one or more display channels.

You can also set criteria for how interested a person must be in order to see your ads. Choose from those who visited one web page all the way down to people who abandoned a shopping cart. What we know, and we know for sure, is that the further down the sales cycle a person has gone, the more likely they are to re-engage by clicking your ad. Indeed, the likelihood of them converting into a customer doubles.

Not to mention the fact that when the next click comes from a display ad, it comes at a fraction of the cost that most of marketers pay for a click on a paid search ad.

When one factors in real-time bidding and the complexities of retargeting, display campaigns aren’t what you would call “simple.” They are, however, very worthwhile as a brand awareness and/or conversion optimization tactic.

If you don’t have the skill on your own or within your staff to address the complexities of a display advertising campaign, there are trading desks that can be used that will help you to run ads according to a very specific set of criteria that you work out with them.

Interaction with your audience isn’t just a nice thing to have; it’s an absolutely necessary aspect of advertising. With the new abilities inherent in display advertising, interactive marketing just got a lot more interesting—and a lot more powerful.

Marc Poirier is the co-founder and vice president of marketing at Acquisio.