In this opinion piece, digital PR professional, Jake Quade (pictured below), says that technology is changing online ads for the better and clever agencies are producing campaigns that audiences actually want to engage with…
Advertisements are perhaps one of the most peculiar aspects to content in the marketing world – while inbound marketers have coined the phrase ‘10X content’ to signify their ever-rising benchmark of excellence, for some reason the majority of advertisements, on the other hand, still suck. However, in the past few weeks we’ve seen some big shifts in the digital space that may herald a new age in advertising: one where they don’t suck as much, and provide actual user value in exchange for airtime.
Perhaps one of the more significant movements was the death-toll of flash ads, coming from both Amazon and Google. Amazon went all-out and banned flash from its domains, while Google switched them over to HTML5 (and pausing them by default). If this is all a bit too techy for you, just think back to those ridiculous banners that used to take forever to load, and look ridiculous when they finally did load – remember the things that looked like this?
For the most part this is Google and Amazon telling advertisers it’s time to pull your weight and serve good content, rather than creating crappy copy that doesn’t deliver. Google already curates non-advertising content by way of its search engine, so it was only a matter of time before they pulled the plug on bad ads, too.
The gauntlet has been thrown down to all content marketers, especially advertisers: make something that actually improves customer experience.
One company that’s risen to that challenge particularly well over the past week is Orion Travel Tech, who now have customers willingly – and happily – advertising for them.
They do this by covering the baggage fees of participating customers, provided they host an advertisement on said luggage during the trip. Not only is this form of advertising participatory (take notes, flash ads!) it actually leaves customers in a better position than they were in previously, being so practical as to minimise the financial erk of unnecessary expenses. Additionally, the amplification potential is huge – travellers are both mobile and tend to meet in familiar places like airports.
The plot thickens for advertisers
While it’s all well and good to say “hey, stop being so flashy (pun intended) and start providing more substantiated, user-centric value”, there’s a fundamental reason it’s taken so long for advertising to make the shift that other content types began so long ago – and it has to do with their stage in the broader consumer process.
Research Powerhouse Gartner believe that all technologies and introduced material sits within the same five-cycled lifespan, which they coined the Gartner Hype Cycle. It looks like this:
If we were to plot different content types into their prospective places on this cycle, we could assume that advertising sits closer to the peak of inflated expectations – that all-too-familiar hysteria of a new product launch – than content made for less impulsive audiences. Though the likes of Google and Amazon may have done consumers some sort of service by laying down some best-practice guidelines, it presents a new challenge for advertisers. Now, they have to maximise the hype they can garner around their product or service while still offering something more to their customers while making sure their profits are as pointy as possible.
We may soon see an uptick in the quality of digital advertisements, but it may not be married to as sharp an ROI as you traditionalists might like. The challenge presents itself, advertisers, to create work that doesn’t suck, and that provides actual value from the get-go. Best of luck!