In working with dozens of digital teams at the world's top brands, at Flite we've seen a few major trends emerge. One is the fact that many brands now publish content directly into paid channels. This is a major shift that puts more control in the hands of brands. It builds on the trends of content marketing and agile marketing both becoming more important in the marketing mix.

Why? A few reasons. First, click-through rates continue to be abysmally low because ads don’t provide value. For years, consumers have put up with ads that are teasers that try to lure them to click to another page. Certain advances in advertising technology have actually made ads even more intrusive — think homepage takeovers, or videos that automatically start playing music until you scramble to hit the "pause" button.

So publishing content directly into paid channels — that is, into banner ads — is actually a trend that benefits both consumers and brands. Consumers get to interact with ads that are a lot more than a static image and text. They see ads that stream in Facebook posts, newsfeeds, relevant articles, recipes, videos, weather information, movie ticket information, and much more. Brands, in turn, get an audience that is happy to interact rather than be annoyed. So advertisers realize that they need to give consumers a reason to interact with an ad.

Consumers want instant gratification. If they are interested in your brand at this moment, when an interesting Twitter stream in a display ad catches their attention, then brands need to seize that moment and offer content directly in the ad. Not on another Twitter page or landing page, but right in the ad itself. 

One example of a company doing this is Corn Nuts, a brand within Kraft's global portfolio. Corn Nuts had a collaboration and partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, otherwise known as UFC to mixed martial arts fans around the world.

Corn Nuts had access to a ton of UFC content, but needed a way to distribute it to new and existing fans alike. So they offered different content in their display ads and frequently updated this content before, during, and after a much-anticipated fight event. The content included UFC fighter biographies, workout routines, fitness tips, and videos. Customers found the information relevant because the ad was shown on sites like ESPN.com, and the ad didn't interrupt their browsing experience. 

Beyond brand awareness and offering relevance, brands are publishing content in ads for another purpose: to gather data about users and to form a feedback loop about how to best appeal to audiences.

For years, brands have tuned into social media to listen to what customers cared about and how they viewed the brand. Now brands can gain even more insight by offering the same interesting content that they post on social media, putting it into online ads, and tracking engagement based on what users are clicking on, scrolling through, and sharing. This goes hand-in-hand with the trend of data-driven marketing playing a more important role in understanding consumer preferences.

Through a targeted media buy — for instance, city-dwelling professional women age 25-32 who are interested in healthy eating — brands can target specific audiences who visit specific websites relating to their brand. In this way, brands can essentially create real-time "focus groups" to learn what particular customer segments care about and how to tailor product offerings in ways that make sense.

Brands are using the digital space to publish content that customers care about, learn more about consumer behavior through engagement data, and ultimately enrich the brand experience. Display advertising plays a major role in achieving this, and is far from obsolete. As the main way to reach users at a massive scale, display has come a long way with innovation that benefits brands and consumers. With the inclusion of content and a focus on agility, the possibilities to create digital experiences that surprise and allure customers are limitless.