Advertising Is Content; Content Is Advertising

from the took-'em-long-enough dept

There's been a bunch of buzz this week over an Ad Age report suggesting that firms are finally realizing that no one pays attention to online banner ads. For all the hype about online advertising, this one point should have been obvious from quite early on. That doesn't mean that banner ads haven't been lucrative for some publishers who place them on their sites -- but it does call into question how long that sort of advertising will last. Sooner or later the advertisers will recognize that they're not getting much bang for the buck. For publishers (us included, mind you), that could mean that an easy vein for revenue goes away -- but the end result should be better. Companies will start to learn that there are better ways to achieve their goals than banner ads.

There are a few key points in the discussion that shouldn't be surprising to most folks around here, but apparently have just hit the consciousness of ad execs on Madison Avenue:
  1. The captive audience is dead. There is no captive audience online. Everyone surfing the web has billions of choices on what they can be viewing, and they don't want to be viewing intrusive and annoying ads. They'll either ignore them, block them or go elsewhere.
  2. Advertising is content. You can't think of ads as separate things any more. Without a captive audience, there's no such thing as "advertising" any more. It's just content. And it needs to be good/interesting/relevant content if you want to get anyone to pay attention to it.
  3. Content is advertising. Might sound like a repeat of the point above, and in some way it is -- but it's highlighting the flip side. Any content is advertising. It's advertising something. Techdirt content "advertises" our business even if you don't realize it. Every bit of content advertises something, whether on purpose or not.
  4. Content needs to be useful/engaging/interesting. This simply ties all of that together. If you want anyone to pay attention to your content (which is advertising something, whether on purpose or not) it needs to be compelling and engaging.
So, for the "brand" marketers out there who are starting to worry that banner ads aren't particularly effective, it's time to start rethinking how you build a brand along these points. Techdirt even has a way to help you put these ideas into practice. Give us a call -- we'll explain how it works in more detail. So, yes, even this is an "advertisement," but hopefully, it's also useful content.
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 19 Mar 2008 @ 6:42pm


    Ok, i see what you're saying, but what you're talking about is still essentially an advertorial, just really shined up.

    As I said, I think we just disagree on the definition of an advertorial.

    BMW is making these films to sell BMWs. Of course they are. They bring attention to themselves with "oh look, BMW is contributing to the arts" and I am sure the films are wonderful, but they are still very eloborate commercials for BMWs.

    What if (and, yes, this is an "if") one of those films eventually wins an Oscar? What if any company made a film that was so good that it was considered the best in the field... even if it also helped sell a product.

    Is that a problem?

    I agree that it's great to have good content and advertising CO-EXIST in the same form, but let's not kid ourselves - content that is designed to promote good will towards a company or put you in a position to experience the company's product is still there to ultimately SELL THE PRODUCT.

    What's wrong with selling a product?

    I know I might be sounding cynical, but it's just reality - these companies exist to sell you a product, we're just talking about shifting over to a soft-sell, almost subliminal model as opposed to screaming in your face.

    But I'm not saying it's subliminal. BMWfilms is quite blatant. It's made by BMW. Obviously they want to sell cars. But they're not tricking you into watching the film. They're not intruding on you. They're making good content that ALSO happens to sell cars.

    So, no, it's not subliminal. It's quite blatant. But it's not about deceptive practices. In fact, it's about being a lot more open about it. We're quite open about what we do at Techdirt. Do you feel like we're tricking you? You read our content because you value it (I hope!). Do you think we tricked you because we also make money?

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