Digital marketers are – quite reasonably – laser-focused on the issue of ad viewability. “Native advertising” and branded content are being touted as solutions, but the truth is they are not the silver bullet. As it often goes, the road to digital redemption is not a straight line.
Consumers are ignoring ads like never before and banner blindness is plaguing the industry. Even if consumers were paying attention, many ads wouldn’t be “in view”: They’re served below the fold, or take longer to load than the time viewers typically spend on the page.
So how can you make sure your ads will be seen? Get ads into the content stream. It’s where you and every other consumer on earth spend the bulk of their time: watching, listening and reading content.
Companies like Vibrant Media create “in-content” brand-discovery solutions that get brand messages into those content streams, where consumers are actually paying attention. These placements are the polar opposite of the old static banner ads that sit quietly in the right rail of the page, just waiting to be ignored. For example, Vibrant has contextually relevant rich-media brand canvases that take all of your great content – such as the social media channels you spent so much sweat and treasure to populate – and bring it into the editorial well, where it’s ready to be discovered by consumers who are interested.
Now that you’re in the content, what are you going to deliver? There will always be a place for “traditional” digital advertising, whether it is a 15-second web video spot or even a banner ad with a simple call to action. However, we have seen that advertising performs best when it delivers genuine value to the consumer. Create ads that are relevant, fun and engaging. Want to do display? Then make it radically different, like this one from Ikea. Reel people in with ads that are contextually relevant, and really useful like these Jeep ads that run alongside news stories and highlight road conditions and weather info.
Much of the buzz around native advertising focuses on branded content or sponsored content, such as what you see on sites like Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post. It is clear this will grow as an opportunity for publishers seeing their revenue squeezed both online and off.
However, not every brand is going to develop its own content shop with a healthy budget. We should hope to see “hundreds of content shops” blossom, whether they are small home-based operations in Brooklyn or big-time offshoots of ad agencies. We’ve already seen some PR firms get into the game.
Whatever its origin, content is the key (along with context, of course) to the hearts and minds of consumers. Ads need to be fun, value-adding, and “content-like,” and they need to be seen to be appreciated. You’ve engaged them, so now you better be engaging.