Learning is fun. So is content. (Image credit: Flickr, woodleywonderworks)

Some of the best marketing ideas today are about content marketing.

Through content, marketers provide value to consumers, and hopefully get their business as well. It’s something everyone can feel good about.

But it’s popular for content marketers to disparage online advertising these days.

There is this thinking that advertising and content marketing are disparate ideas — standing in polar opposition to each other — as if inbound, value-driven content, and outbound advertising don’t mix well.

The idea that ads online have to cater to a kind of attention deficit theatre is something we’ve artificially imposed upon ourselves.

Think for a minute. What is a display ad, really?

It’s a rectangle, in front of an online audience, that you can buy.

Now you can put (with some restrictions like file size or decency) whatever you like in this rectangle.

It could be an eye-catching animation about your latest promotion.

Or it could be a funny video. Or a recipe. Maybe a how-to article.

Yes, that’s right. You can put content marketing in ads.

But unlike standard, non-advertised content, you’re probably exposing new people to this content. In ads, you aren’t restricted to only your existing web traffic.

Margot Bloomstein said last week at Confab Minneapolis (the Content Strategy Conference),

“The right content slows down users, focuses their attention, and helps them act deliberately...Users can appreciate slow experiences: they’re engaged, anticipating, creating memories.”

The right ad content slows down users too. It engages with them on a whole different level than an animation.

I’m not saying don’t do display campaigns with catchy animations. They do serve a business purpose — creating awareness — even if clickthrough rates hover around 0.08%.

But if you want to engage with new audiences and create memories, don’t be shy. Take a note from content marketing and create some content-rich ads.

In advertising, you own the rectangle. It’s up to you to decide what to do with it.