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In an October 2012 study, Adobe found that 68% of consumers find online ads “annoying” and “distracting” and 54% say online banner ads don’t work.

It makes no sense that ads should be so reviled. They lack public support because they have been so widely misused.

Meanwhile, content marketing has been on the rise. But engaging in purely inbound content marketing lacks the scale many companies require to hit their objectives.

The key to successful display ads — ones that aren’t “annoying” — is to focus on providing value through entertainment and information. You can do this through content advertising: scaling content out to audiences in paid channels.

For content ads, ditch the idea of a “banner” ad. Display ads are a fundamentally different space than physical billboards — notably that display ads are enabled by technology to be interactive and real-time.

Be helpful

For content marketers, being helpful should be a no-brainer, but in ads it’s a little more complicated. Let’s look at some examples.

Instead of showing a delicious photo of your food product in your ads, share a gallery of 5 recipes involving innovative ways to use the product. Better yet, customize those recipes to the season or an upcoming holiday or event.

If you’re a B2B company with helpful whitepapers and guides, include some of that information in the ad, with a link to download the full content.

Auto ads can include content as simple as a 360 degree vehicle view, or color-picker that lets a user see how the car looks in each of its standard colors.

Display ads are a great channel for videos or all kinds as well.

You get the idea. See my post on ideas for content-rich ads from earlier this year for more inspiration.

Optimize thoughtfully

Maximize ad spend by optimizing frequently and thoughtfully. Online advertising provides a phenomenal amount of feedback about the success of an ad — compared for instance, the magazine counterpart of a display ad.

Use that information to determine what format makes sense for your content ads.

For example, check out this case study where the advertiser achieved an 11x increase in video viewings by changing the call to action to “Play with Sound.”

Remember when optimizing content ads, use metrics related to engagement and interaction. After all, clickthroughs are a terrible engagement metric.

Keep it real-time

Fresh content is the best content. When was the last time you looked at content more than a month old, even a week old online? Ads aren’t that different.

One low-friction method to keeping ads fresh is to populate your ads with social media streams or RSS feeds for the freshest content. Units like these can really highlight content that you’re already producing for other channels, and grab extra interaction due to their “native ad” feel.

Even if your content ads are static, plan to update that content periodically so that repeat viewers get exposed to new content.

Don’t abandon the creative

Sometimes in the pursuit of great content, the beauty of the creative becomes secondary. Don’t let this happen. Appealing creative is still a necessity to capture interest.

Especially when you start to drop in lots of text or visual content, the creative can become cluttered or heavy. But well-composed creative with smart content is a recipe for success.

Interested in publishing content into ads at scale? Check out The Essential Guide to Paid Media Publishing to learn more.