Is Advertising Content?

Like many of world’s Internet users, when I browse my favorite websites my eyes tend to scan past the navigational elements of the page, take a quick glance at any advertisements, and move directly to the content of the page. This week, Dave Morgan and Joe Marchese of OnlineSPIN took to the headlines to debate a critical question: “Is advertising content?” Before presenting my argument, here are the key points outlined by each side.

Advertising Is NOT Content:

  1. Consumers would rather experience content without advertising
  2. Consumers are even willing to pay to remove advertising
  3. Regardless of the quality of the advertising, users don’t want to be interrupted

Advertising IS Content:

  1. Consumers value advertising content as much as media/editorial content
  2. In a recession consumers prefer free services, advertising provides that
  3. Consumers don’t hate all ads, they hate being bombarded by irrelevant ones

Each position has its own validity, and neither can be universally applied to every user and every platform. However, after careful analysis of the facts, it is evident that if done properly, advertising is content, and plays a critical role in the success of any website or business.

When an advertiser develops and releases a powerful, relevant, meaningful ad that adds value to the consumer experience by eliciting strong feelings and inspiring interest in users, the advertisement becomes a portal for a potential customer/subscriber/user to learn something new, experience something different, or discover a product or service that enriches their lives. However, when consumers are overexposed, constantly flooded by too widely-targeted ads, their effectiveness is dramatically reduced, and the value added the the viewer becomes less and less.

For every one hour of television, there is between 14-18 minutes of advertising. So when I watch Fringe live on Thursday nights, between 23-30% of my time is spent viewing advertisements as I wait to return to the show. When I’m watching live I am offered very little choice as to whether I see the advertisements, and more often than not, the ads are more of a necessary transition than valuable content. To combat this, advertisers utilize integrated product placement to more seamlessly mesh the content of the program with the content of the ad. As the original debaters noted, television commercials can be content in the proper context. Super Bowl advertisements, with a hefty price tag of $3 million every 30 seconds, are a critical element of the viewing experience and undoubtedly provide additional value to the viewers (some of whom believe the football game is the “commercial break” until the next set of ads).

Google Super Bowl
Online, the dynamics of advertising as content change as choice, customization, and interaction become increasingly available to users. Display advertisements from industry heavyweights like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Microsoft have revolutionized the way users view and feel about the advertisements they see. By involving users, advertisers create an interactive, participative environment in which ads become a source of entertainment, and have the potential to overtake the page media to become the primary content on a website.

I visited the Yahoo! Sports Golf page today, checking in on the commentary about the PGA Tour FedEx Cup Playoffs, and encountered an ad that I spent more than six (6) minutes interacting with. The American Express video ad featured several levels, allowing me to select a topic, and control a video featuring David Toms, a prominent PGA Tour player. I viewed three short instructional segments, and absorbed tips that I can use next time I am out on the course. When I had completed my interaction with the advertisement, I continued down the page to read the rest of the article.

The ad did not get in the way, it did not distract from the original content, and it did not detract from my experience. In fact, it did the exact opposite. I wantedto interact with the ad, and it became a critically important and positive part of my experience on the website. Relevant, engaging, dynamic, and complex advertisements can become content as elemental as the site media itself. There is no doubt that if done properly (adding true value to the consumer/user experience through engagement, choice, and interaction), advertising is content that can be as important a definition of the user experience as the core page media.

See how intent targeted advertising is reshaping the way publishers target users to give you the most relevant ads, click here.

To read the original articles, click here and here.

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About Michael Dossett

Inactive since Sept. 2011

Posted on September 26, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Richard Jonachet

    Indeed, not all advertising is content, but properly created – and importantly, properly executed – advertising can be extremely valuable content. Good post, Michael. Insightful, timely.

  2. Great site, though I would love to see some more media! – Great post anyway, Cheers!

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