Because the best marketers deserve great content.
Beyond Ad Tech: How Changes In The Advertising Landscape Have Made Content King
This article originally appeared in Randy Wootton’s Forbes Tech Council column.
Many consumers today have rocky relationships with advertisers. Shifts in the advertising technology industry over the past several decades have led to higher instances of false advertising and fraud, leaving consumers wary. New digital technologies have allowed marketers to design ads that are more invasive and less relevant than ever before. Have you ever purchased something online and started seeing massive banner advertisements for the same product on every site you visit for weeks? The ads have missed their mark; you’ve already purchased the product and might even be regretting it now that its advertisers won’t leave you alone. As a result, many don’t like or trust most of the ads that come across their social media profiles, the websites they visit and their television screens. That’s a major problem for marketers.
Not all hope is lost, however. Changes to the ad tech space have led to the rapid rise of one type of marketing in particular: content marketing. Brands have been using content in some form to connect with consumers for most of the modern era — even the most irritating and irrelevant ad is technically “content.” So why is today different? The distinction lies in the relevance and quality of your content.
When was the last time you saw an ad so compelling that you shared it with a friend? Chances are, you can’t remember ever doing that.
Now try to remember the last time you read an article or saw a tweet that you shared with your friends or colleagues. I’d be willing to bet this is something you’ve done many times. Consumers are significantly more likely to share content like articles or tweets than ads because they’re so often more relatable and personal.
Why did content marketing rise above other kinds of marketing? To understand, we have to look at how advertising has shifted over time. Before digital technologies existed, advertisers had a smaller set of mediums they could work with. Their options included broadcast networks, magazines and newspapers. Advertisers worked with what was available, and most consumers didn’t feel constantly inundated with ad after ad.
The entire marketing business model was more straightforward: The price of an ad depended on simple factors like the number of subscribers and the size or length of the ad. Today, the model is much more complex, relying on easily falsified metrics like clicks and web views to determine cost. In 2016, more than half of online traffic was generated by bots instead of people. This shift has distorted the incentives for ad tech providers, encouraging them to promote impressions over genuine connections.
An advertisement’s payoff is short-lived and often inflated. Increased clicks and views may seem like a good investment, but the truth is that sometimes even the best, most relevant ads don’t make it past a paywall or an ad blocker. Research has shown that when consuming media, Americans today spend less than half of their time in front of ad-supported material. However, great content is enjoyed and shared. It isn’t disruptive or intrusive, it’s relatable and welcomed. Content marketing has emerged as one of the best ways for marketers to reach their customers directly and to develop meaningful relationships over the long term, and more and more ad tech companies are recognizing this window of opportunity.
If you want your consumers to connect with your content, whether it’s an advertisement, blog post or video, and have it pay off in the long term, you need to make it relatable. There are a few key elements all high-quality content has in common, including:
• Generating meaning and purpose
• Adding value to people’s professional and personal lives
• Nurturing your credibility
• Rounding out your brand’s personality
• Deepening your relationship with the consumer
Great content does more than just sell a product — it turns your brand into a trusted friend. The banner and Instagram ads customers see are only meaningful if they add value to the viewers’ lives and align with the in-store experience, what the product packaging looks like, how it feels to talk with the sales staff or return an item, and what the company’s leaders write and say in public. In other words, everything from the copy on your website to the messaging on your packaging to your CEO’s commentary in an article in The New York Times is content, and it’s all part of the value of your brand. This is why content is critical: It’s the delivery mechanism for the ideas that animate who you are as a company.