It's Not Inventory That's The Problem For Online Ads; It's Getting People's Attention

from the it's-about-time! dept

For many years we’ve been banging the drum about how advertisers need to realize that advertising is content. As there were more and more complaints about people skipping ads or figuring out ways to avoid advertising, the solution was simply to recognize that if the ads were good content you no longer had to worry about intrusive advertising (which works less and less, as the idea of the captive audience goes away). Earlier this week, we wrote about how we were worried that too many TV commercial advertisers seemed to think that simply throwing their commercials at the beginning of YouTube videos was going to be the solution to the “TiVo problem.” That’s not going to work, because that’s not how people want to be advertised to.

In that post, I mentioned that some have clearly figured this out, and linked back to a post from 2004 about American Express understanding the nature of ads being content for a campaign they ran online that really encouraged people to seek them out. The good news is that those older campaigns were so successful that the company has embraced the model much more fully, even using the same language we have about how ads are content, and how they need to be more interactive and engaging. Meanwhile, Forbes is running a series of articles on online videos as well, with multiple articles noting how American Express is using YouTube to get people to want to view their ads, and (similar to Frito-Lay) getting people to actually make their own ads as well. Forbes even has an article from an ad exec about the importance of ads being good, engaging content as well. While it could have come a bit earlier on in the evolution of advertising, it’s really great to see it working in practice — though, we’re sure there will still be some who complain about how advertising is dead due to things like TiVo. In the first Forbes article above, by the way, it’s also worth pointing out that the company notes that forcing ads before the videos is a pretty sure path to losing their audience. So, as we had suggested in the piece earlier this week, advertisers expecting YouTube to put their ads on other’s videos are barking up the wrong tree. Instead, they should look at simply making it so people want to see their videos, and then putting them wherever it makes sense (including just uploading them to YouTube)… just like American Express has done. It’s not about buying airtime, or “finding inventory.” The inventory is all there. There’s no limit to inventory online. The only limit is getting people to pay attention.

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Comments on “It's Not Inventory That's The Problem For Online Ads; It's Getting People's Attention”

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Jay Small (user link) says:

Even more true beyond "image" advertising

Remember, too, that most advertising that falls into the 30-second-spot form factor, at least on a national scale, tends to be “image” or “brand” advertising. When brand-building or product awareness is the goal, treating ads as content means creating a compelling experience — either entertaining or at least highly informative.

When you get to the level of price/item ads — think periodical retail ads or newspaper/online classified ads — the “ads-as-content” value proposition is even easier to achieve. People want to know that things they want to buy are on sale, and how and where to get them.

Michael Long says:


“That’s not going to work, because that’s not how people want to be advertised to.”

Ads as content won’t work, simply because only a handful will go viral at any point in time. Most won’t be sought out at all, because most won’t–and can’t–be “compelling”.

Ask practically anyone, and you’ll find they don’t want ads. Of course, quite a few don’t want to pay for their content either, so there’s a definite sense of people wanting their cake and eating it too.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Wants

Ads as content won’t work

But they do work

simply because only a handful will go viral at any point in time

Who said they need to go viral? They don’t . They just need to be made so that the people who need what they want seek them out. That’s different than viral.

Ask practically anyone, and you’ll find they don’t want ads.

That’s because you position them as ads. People don’t mind compelling content, even if it advertises for something else. You come here to Techdirt, even though it “advertises” for our corporate service. Do you think of Techdirt as a big advertisement? No, it’s content you’re interested in reading.

Richard Ault (profile) says:

Ads as content

I’d have to agree that the ads that succeed with me (in my experiences), are the ones that engage me the most. This is typically acheived by appealing to some base emotion, and the history of that base appeal in the advertising industry has been limited to a small suite of emotions. E.g. Sex, Curiousity, Hunger, Desire, Greed, etc. I’d like to think that people are a lot more complex than that base set of emotions.

By treating ads as content you broaden the horizon of what is possible with regards to who you can make an impact with as an advertiser. At least it seems that way to me. So in that context alone, ads as content makes a lot of sense for advertisers.

With regards to people who don’t want to be advertised to, that’s a tall order since just about every media I can think of either has ads alongside it, or integrated with it (paid placement). Kind of hard to dispense with a form of business that subsidizes our insatiable appetite for media.

Bobby (user link) says:


We are all bombarded by hundreds of messages each day. The problem for advertisers is cutting through the clutter to get the message not only seen or heard, but remembered as well. Running more ads is not the answer. If the ad is not memorable to begin with it is just more clutter, more background niose, something else to be tuned out or turned off. How do we reach an audience that is quick to say “Been there, done that”? With creativity. Create an ad or campaign that is both entertaining and informative. Create and ad that makes me want to listen, makes me laughf, or tugs at my heart strings. It also wouldn’t hurt to be honest. The “get a free laptop” ads got my attention exactly twice. Both times i found out the laptop wasn’t “free”. I had to subscribe to some service, on line degree, or something else that was going to cost me money. I clicked out both times and those get something free emails go directly to my spam box. Deliver what you promise. There’s more I could toss in here about creativity and the cost related to it, but I’ll save that for another time. I have a football game to watch.

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