Great Advertising Is Content

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The captive audience is dead. - Mike Masnick, Techdirt

The attention wars have been raging for years, but the battlefronts are changing. A captive audience that you can blast with intrusive advertising is a thing of the past. The Internet gives us choices. We can download our favorite shows without commercials. We can ignore or block ads, even on our favorite sites. Make no mistake about it, all advertising is now opt-in.

These days, great advertising is content. Instead of pushing a message, it needs to pull consumers in. It should make readers want to be the first to share it on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

We’re already seeing ads that do this. One of the most unforgettable videos of the last 12 months is Chipotle’s “Back to the Start.” It’s an Internet hit with over six million views on YouTube. Proctor & Gamble’s Future Friendly brand joins with Food52 in a lovely spot about a family’s relationship to the food they eat. These videos are moving and interesting in their own right, but also do an amazing job of conveying a brand’s message.

At SAY Media, we also believe that endemic advertisers can contribute to a publication. That’s why we introduced Content Ads. These ads allow small and medium businesses to become a part of a site and its community. They add value and credibility to the site (and vice versa) by being part of the conversation, part of the site experience. These aren’t text ads spawned by a Google AdSense algorithm. These are ads the reader wants to see. They honor the content they’re near.

Content marketing also works. The brand creates useful, relevant content and distributes it through online channels. Hubspot, a creator of inbound marketing software, is an expert at this. SAY’s ReadWriteWeb is the place many technology firms go to distribute their content marketing because of its large, focused audience that is hungry for credible, useful information.

As our friends at Techdirt have been saying, content is advertising too. A band’s video released for streaming on the Internet is, of course, content. But it’s also an ad for the band, for the album, and for the digital download of the song (Ok GO anyone?). Even a normal article on xoJane (wait, has there ever been a normal article on xoJane?) is in some snake-eating-its-own-tail way an advertisement for xoJane. Content is an advertisement for the content creator.

Finally, as content and advertising become more and more alike, content management systems must merge with ad servers. Advertising should live in the same information architecture as the rest of the publication and follow a workflow identical to editorially-driven content. The analytics tools you use to track and serve content need to be the same tools used for advertising. Your ads must have the same social sharing capabilities. It should not be strange or odd to ask, how many Likes or Tweets or YouTube views did your ad get? Great content, after all, is great content. And, great advertising is great content too.

John Vars is director of product management at SAY Media.