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For years, businesses and brands have been paying to get their content and promotions out there – paid media is nothing new.


But what has changed is the landscape for paid media. While in the past it would have been via the route of print, television, or radio advertising, in today’s world it’s more likely to be in the online space. Social media, search engines, video ads, pop ups, and display and programmatic ads are now the backbone of paid media.


Are you an ecommerce marketer, owner or leader? This paid media guide is intended for DTC businesses to gain an understanding for the crucial role paid media plays in your marketing strategy and guide you through the setup and management of the channel.


Understanding the different types of paid media, knowing the benefits, and breaking down exactly how some of the more popular methods work can help you to decide if paid media is a worthwhile investment for your brand. If you want to boost your clicks, generate traffic, and improve your sales, keep reading as we delve into today’s world of paid media.

What is Paid Media?

Any good marketing strategy will explore all angles when it comes to business growth, and paid media can be an effective part of that strategy. Paid media helps you to amplify your content, reach a wider audience, and leverage your position. Before we look at the ins and outs of paid media, it helps to understand the different types of media out there that might inform your strategy.

The main kinds of media for an ecommerce business are earned mediaowned media, and paid media.

Earned media is content created organically by those outside of your business. This can be media mentions, word of mouth recommendations, reshares, etc. While earned media is primarily from outside sources, you can encourage this as part of your content strategy by contributing to industry think pieces and publications, working with journalists and influencers (when you’re not paying them), and collaborating with other companies and content creators.

Owned media is the media you create. This includes your own articles, blog posts, web content, social media content, guides, whitepapers, videos, and basically anything that is created in-house for your target audience. This content should always be on brand, engaging, and informative, and it’s incredibly useful in helping generate leads and draw consumers into your sales funnel.

Paid media is a method of promoting content through paid avenues. All the big social media sites, like Facebook and LinkedIn, are set up for paid ads, meaning that they can help promote and target your content to the right audience.

Google (and other search engines) also offer paid ad options, and you can also work with influencers for paid marketing, too. The main aim of paid media is to boost your exposure and generate more leads, and this ultimately leads to more engagement and more sales.

The services offered by ecomm agencies range from basic SEO to comprehensive campaigns that use integrated marketing techniques across multiple platforms. These techniques should combine brand, content, and ecommerce technology, with a focus on how your brand strategy performs digitally, and how your content supports this strategy.

An ecommerce agency is typically made up of experts across the marketing spectrum, from ecommerce website development to strategy, content, SEO, paid advertising, videography, photography, and design. Alternatively, they can specialize in one or two of these areas, requiring companies to work with multiple agencies to cover all bases.


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4 Types of Paid Media

1. Display ads

  • High volume of impressions, easy to reach mass audiences, ability to locate audiences via list matching
  • One of the most affordable methods
  • Good for retargeting
  • A measurable form of advertising
  • Can be easily blocked or ignored

Display ads are one of the most popular types of paid media. They crop up as banner ads, pop up ads, video ads, and wallpaper ads and tend to be displayed on web pages, search engines, and across the digital landscape.

They’re popular because they’re typically one of the most affordable paid media options. Display ads are often charged by cost per click. This means that whenever a search engine visitor clicks your ad, you pay a certain amount.

Display ads are also commonly used for retargeting purposes. When someone has visited your site before, display ads can pop up at a later stage or on a different web page as a visual reminder for the visitor to return to your site. While popular and affordable, one of the drawbacks of display ads is that they can be easily ignored as consumers are so used to seeing them.

2. Paid social media

  • Lots of opportunity to reach an engaged audience
  • Great for pinpoint-targeting your audience
  • Can be cost-effective and scaled up or down

With social media part of our daily routine, paid social media ads are another good option for brands who want to boost awareness, extend their reach, and engage followers. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn all offer opportunities for paid social media. For example, this can be Facebook ads or paying to boost or promote content. It can also cover working with influencers to promote your brand in exchange for a cost or even for free services or goods from your brand.

There are many benefits to paid social media, and it’s growing to be one of the most lauded platforms for paid marketing as so many people use it on a daily basis. In fact, with over 3.6 million people using social media on a regular basis and over 33% of digital advertising spending coming from these platforms, it truly is paving the way for the future of advertising.

3. Search engine ads

  • Good return on investment
  • Immediate results

You may have heard about PPC (pay per click) and PPI (pay per impression), and this is usually related to search engine ads. You’ll see search engine ads appear on the search engine results page, and they work in a similar way to display ads in terms of costing. Typically, search campaigns are considered a bottom-funnel activity because they indicate buyer intent.

To make your search engine ads successful, you’ll need to know which keywords are relevant and put in a good bid to make what you pay per click worthwhile.

Search engine ads can be really rewarding as they help you to reach the right audience, they usually serve up immediate results, offer a clear return on investment, and can be easy to budget for if you go down the pay per click route. However, to make search engine ads work in your favor, you’ll need specialized knowledge when it comes to keywords – and it can be a time-consuming process. It’s often easier (and more beneficial for your results) to outsource your Google Ads to a professional agency.

4. Video ads

  • High impact and influence opportunity
  • Increasingly popular platform and show positive performance compared to static display

Video ads give brands the ability to explain a product in detail or at the least, capture attention. Video ads can be served in a variety of ways, lengths and on various mediums. As consumers more frequently stream shows and videos on their TVs, brands have a unique opportunity to capture cost-effective impressions in a space where media costs were once prohibitive.

Video ads can run on social placements, through YouTube, connected TV or via programmatic placements. The opportunities are endless. The key for a successful video campaign is producing the perfect creative. And it doesn’t have to be overly-perfected! Studies show that the more organic the video (on certain placements, like social) the better the performance.

Like Google Ads, video placements can be tricky to perfect and expensive when done wrong. It’s best to consult with an expert on buying and placing media for this channel.

Popular Platforms for Paid Media

With so many platforms out there, it can be tricky to know where to put your efforts. This quick and easy breakdown introduces you to all the familiar sites and helps you to see which paid media channels could be a good fit for your brand. Of course, the platforms you use also depend on your target audience. If a brand’s audience doesn’t use Facebook, for example, there’s very little point in having a paid media strategy for that channel.


  • Image and call to action ads
  • Video ads
  • Slideshows
  • Carousel ads
  • Stories
  • Collections
  • Messenger ads


  • Single image ads
  • Text ads
  • Email marketing for users on the platform


  • Instagram stories
  • Photo ads
  • Video
  • Carousel ads
  • Collections
  • Influencer ads


  • Video ads (skippable and non-skippable)
  • How-to videos


  • Image ads
  • Video ads
  • Text ads
  • Shop ads
  • Discovery ads
  • Display ads

Benefits of Paid Media

1.Instant visibility

Ads on social media and search engines offer your brand instant visibility. Social media can be a very convoluted place and it’s easy for posts to get buried in the noise. But with paid ads, your posts are sure to show up and be visible on the feed – that’s what you pay for after all.

2.Targeted traffic

Another benefit of paid media is that it gives you the chance to target your market demographic and reach people who would be interested in what your brand has to offer.

The type of platform you advertise on may depend on your audience, as different demographics tend to show preference to different sites. Knowing your buyer persona in-depth and being aware of your audience behaviors can help you to choose the right platform to target.

3.Higher engagement

When it comes to social media, the clue is in the title. Social media platforms are all about encouraging engagement and by utilizing these platforms and opting for paid media, you can boost your engagement. More engagement means more traction, and ultimately leads to higher chances of conversions.


Another great thing about considering paid media is that it can be a budget-effective choice.

Essentially, with paid media you can decide how little or how much you invest in its success. With pay per click, you only pay if your ad gets those much wanted clicks, which ultimately means you are only paying for successful action.

As paid media is also easy to track and measure, you can keep tweaking it and even use retargeting to keep success levels high and to ensure a solid ROI. In comparison to traditional forms of marketing, paid media can also be more affordable, and can be scaled up and down according to need.

How Should Ecommerce Businesses Launch Paid Media?

  1. Identify your goal – what do you want your audience to do with your paid ads?
  2. Establish a budget – how much are you willing to invest in paid media to achieve your goal?
  3. Locate your target audience (and the platforms where you should invest). If you have personas already established, knowing where your target spends their time online and their buying journey for your product should be simple.
  4. Build a messaging strategy (seasonal campaigns, product launches, always-on brand campaigns) – what does your content calendar look like? How do you want that to interact with your ad campaigns?
  5. Build your campaigns – typically, you’ll need a specialist to lend guidance and expertise to maximize the value of your placements.
  6. Launch, optimize, report – once your campaigns launch, the work has just begun! Create a reporting cadence for your campaigns so you can make optimizations or pivot your strategy as needed.

How Does Retargeting Work?

Retargeting is common practice when it comes to paid media. With stats showing that 97% of first-time visitors to a site don’t commit to purchasing, retargeting helps to reel them back and clinch that sale.

It does this by collecting cookies from their browser and then using those cookies to follow them around the internet and target them with ads. Hopefully, by seeing your ads crop up wherever they go, you build brand awareness, provide a visual reminder of the product or service they want, and help encourage them deeper into the conversion stage.

There are two different methods that are commonly used for retargeting: cookies and IP.


Cookies targeting

With cookies targeting, a code or pixel stashed within your webpage will track and target visitors who land on your page. It does this by storing a piece of data in their browser. This is one of the most popular ways of retargeting, although with new privacy laws and changes coming into effect it is becoming a more controversial topic and brands are having to ask for visitors permission to opt in or out of cookies.


IP tracking

The other method is IP tracking. It’s very similar to cookies, but targets based on location (thanks to collecting IP addresses). For those who want to reap the benefits of geotargeting, IP tracking can be great for lead generation, tracking competitors, and ensuring you hit your target.


When to use retargeting

Retargeting is a marketing tool designed to be used in combination with other marketing tactics as a long-term strategy. Here are some occasions when using retargeting makes perfect sense in terms of wanting a cost-effective strategy with the chance of a high return on investment.

  • When you want to promote your best-selling items
  • When introducing a new line or service or a new collection
  • When you want to focus your efforts on building more brand awareness
  • When you have surplus products and want to move inventory
  • When you have a sale or special discount or event happening


The pros and cons of retargeting

As with any marketing strategy, there are both drawbacks and benefits of retargeting. These are some pros and cons of a retargeting strategy:

Pros of retargeting

  • Make your brand more visual to online users and deepen familiarity and trust
  • Give gentle reminders to visitors who may have gotten distracted before purchasing
  • Focus on an audience already interested in your brand
  • A cost effective method with a good chance of ROI


Cons of retargeting

  • Some customers may feel as though their privacy has been compromised
  • It can feel like an aggressive or impersonal method if not done correctly
  • The landscape around retargeting is changing with privacy updates

How Does Google Ads Work?

With over 4.3 billion users, there’s no doubt that Google is a search engine giant. For brands who want to utilise Google’s success, Google Ads could be the perfect platform for posting your ads. But how does it work?

Ultimately Google Ads falls under the pay per click category of paid media. It works by brands picking a relevant keyword on Google and making a bid on that keyword. Your bid will be considered the maximum bid, and Google will either award you that keyword (if they think the bid is worthy) or give it to a higher competitor.

You have three main options when it comes to your bid:

CPC – cost per click means you pay when a user clicks on your ad

CPE – cost per engagement means you pay when a user directly engages with your ad

CPM – cost per mille means you pay per 1000 ad impressions


Types of Google Ads

There are also different Google Ad types you can choose. The main ones include:

  • Search ads – text ads that appear in the results page for relevant keyword searches
  • Shopping – visual ads that appear as images on the search results page
  • Display – text or visual ads that appear on third party websites (not just the search engine results page)
  • Video – video ads that appear before YouTube videos


Tips for using Google Ads

If you want to make the most of Google Ads, here are three tips to help you succeed…

  1. Get your keywords right – avoid keywords that are too sprawling or vague as you may find your ads end up in  front of an audience who are too generic and you don’t get many clicks.
  2. Pay attention to your quality score – as part of your Google Ad campaigns, Google will award you a quality score which decides how high your ad should rank. A good score relies on relevant keywords, solid ad copy and a relevant and strong call to action, and a great user experience.

Don’t forget your landing page – while you need to showcase a great ad, you shouldn’t ignore the landing page. Where the user ends up after clicking can make all the difference when it comes to conversion.

How to Run Facebook Ads

Facebook ads are another popular choice for those who want to make the most of social media platforms when it comes to paid media. Facebook has its own ad manager, which helps to make things a little easier when it comes to creating your campaigns. 2.91 billion users turn to Facebook every month, making it an incredibly popular spot to showcase your brand. Here’s how to run Facebook ads…


  1. Create your account – the first step is signing up with Facebook ads manager and to do this you will need a Facebook business page.  After creating your account, you’ll be taken to the ads manager page where you can set up your ad campaigns
  2. Pick an objective – leading you through a series of steps, the ads manager will ask you to pick an objective for your ad. It can be simply wanting to build brand awareness or wanting to extend your reach. It can be to encourage users to install an app, watch a video, visit your website, or send you a message.
  3. Select your audience – knowing who to target when it comes to your ad helps Facebook to ensure your ad hits the right spot. Choose from age to location, gender and language as you build your ideal consumer.
  4. Choose your budget – set your budget and decide how much you want to spend each day on ads to ensure you stay within your range. You can also set start and end dates for your ad campaigns which can be useful when targeting certain holidays or occasions.
  5. Select a format – Facebook ads offer six different ad formats for you to choose from. You can choose from a single video or image or opt for multimedia formats, too.
  6. Measure performance – be sure to keep tracking your ad performance to see which version of your ads are working best. This helps you to tweak and target better for ads in the future too.

How to Run Instagram Ads

With 50% of people discovering new brands, services, and products on Instagram, ecommerce brands may want to their attention to Instagram ads.

Instagram ads are similar to Facebook ads and work by feeding paid ads into users’ feeds and stories. They match non-paid posts in terms of look, but they have a note mentioning that it’s a sponsored post. They can also include things like call to action and other info or directions to help entice users into taking action.

With Instagram ads, you can choose from a range of different ad formats, including:

  • Images – single images that showcase products or services
  • Stories – images and videos that cover everything from brand awareness to sales
  • Carousels – multi image or video formats for showcasing collections or stories
  • Collections – showcasing products with the ability for users to click and buy direct
  • IGTV – shown for 15 seconds from midroll for brand awareness, reach, and CTA
  • Reels – similar to stories but can be longer
  • Shopping – takes you direct to product description with the option to purchase

If you’re already familiar with Facebook advertising, the process to set up Instagram ads is pretty much exactly the same (see above for details).

You can also choose to promote any existing post to turn it into an ad. This could be handy if a certain post has been gaining a lot of traction and doing well. To turn an existing post into an ad you simply click on the promote button beneath the post. It will then ask you to pick the details – audience, budget, timescale, etc.

Want to know more about what paid media could do for your brand?