You could say that I like ads.

I know that to “like ads” sounds funny, but I’m in the business. Some people not in advertising don’t seem to be as keen about ads as I am. That's fair.

At best, I think most folks begrudgingly accept that ads are necessary to make other great things happen, like make apps or content free. Ads have the noble function of helping reward many companies with a source revenue. But if ads do have a bit of a PR problem with the public at large, it's because they don’t make the value they provide explicit enough.

Think about it.

Most display ads these days are functionally very similar to what they were 15 years ago. I find this odd, given how the rest of online marketing has marched forward to embrace new modes of interacting with potential customers. Are you advertising like it’s 1999? I hope not.

New school marketers are embracing tactics like content marketing, social media engagement, and native advertising because they provide value to users. These practices need to be fully introduced into display advertising as well.

Native ads are surging in popularity because they…

  1. provide value to consumers

  2. use content to tell a brand story, or position a brand within a compelling idea

  3. are less noticeable as ads, which ironically maybe makes them more noticeable

Display advertising...

  1. is both a visual and text-driven medium
  2. has unmatchable reach and scale
  3. already has an ecosystem across a massive number of relevant sites and apps

That’s why I find it strange that so many brands haven’t made the leap to using rich media for paid content distribution when it’s so well suited for it.

By suggesting that rich media ads get that native ads feel I'm not suggesting advertisers be deceptive. Quite the opposite.

You have these ads. They're out there in the wild probably driving brand awareness or direct response or both. Why not use those ads as a canvas for your brand storytelling too? Why not drop some snackable content into that rectangle with something interesting and relevant to those who see it?

Why not take a page from the native ads playbook?

This is a huge missed opportunity for so many brands. Especially brands that are already investing in content for other channels.

Here's an example of an IBM ad I discovered on AdAge.com a few months ago.

The ad contains a bunch of interesting videos about big data and other important business topics. It tells a great brand story about a caring company that has invested in being a resource to the business community. The content is geared to help make potential IBM customers more aware of important trends and concepts shaping the business landscape.

In short, this ad's content makes people better at their jobs.

That is powerful. That is what advertising can be. Something that makes people better.

I wrote another post a couple weeks ago called Content Advertising 101: 5 Principles to Start With where I showed examples, including the IBM ad above, of the following types of companies doing content advertising in display ads.

  • a bank
  • a salad dressing
  • a snack food
  • a credit card
  • a cereal
  • a consumer and industrial technology company

As you can see, it's a somewhat diverse group. I hope that inspires you. With the right processes and tools, content advertising should be within anyone's grasp.

So, what now? Well, if this is something you're intrigued by, check out our free eBook, The Essential Guide to Paid Media Publishing. The guide contains example content ad formats and case studies to help you get started with publishing content into ads, to get that native ads feel.

And if a 25-page book isn't your thing, here's a 2-minute video that describes paid media publishing in more detail.