Online video brings pizzazz and sex appeal to Web advertising, serving to entertain when people are in the mode to be entertained. But let's not forget that many people, especially harried, time-constrained adults, use the Web as a fast way to get and act on information. These folks primarily focus on reading printed text. For them, content, especially relevant content, is still king. This is why text-based search advertising and its kissing cousin, contextual advertising, are so effective.
A January 2006 Synovate study asked what type of targeted online ad consumers are likely to respond to. Sixty-two percent of adult consumers cited "subject matter of interest" (content), followed by demographic, geographic, and behavioral responses.
Advertising solution providers recognize the value of content advertising and continue to roll out advancements and new ad offerings involving content. At last week's Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference in San Jose, a number of companies announced changes to their content-related advertising offerings. Yahoo previewed its new advertising interface, which includes the addition of content channels like Yahoo Trip Planner and Yahoo Answers.
Kanoodle announced it has split off its content advertising into a separate division called Pulse 360. Both divisions will be controlled by a new parent company, Seevast. According to Seevast CEO Lance Podell, the split was necessary because agencies didn't even know Kanoodle's content ad offerings were separate buys from Kanoodle's search ads, or that Kanoodle exclusively represented properties those agencies couldn't access through other content-targeting campaigns, such as Google's Content Network. Within agencies, Kanoodle found the search buyer is often not the same as the content buyer. Even getting the content buyer's attention was tough, so long as she only thought of Kanoodle as a search company.
Kanoodle's reorganization comes at the appropriate time. "Brand-focused advertisers' most popular form of targeting this year will be content targeting," said Emily Riley, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "Brand-focused advertisers are much more likely to use past campaign performance data to inform their media planning than to simply advertise on the best-known content sites in their category, which shows that online, even brand advertisers are metrics-driven to a degree. Thirty percent of [these] advertisers use content sponsorship and advertorials, and 45 percent will use keyword contextual ads. Large companies are more than twice as likely as small companies to use content sponsorships or advertorials."
At ad:tech Chicago last month, another new content-related ad solution I really liked came to my attention. Adfusion combines syndicated advertorial with online PR in an article-based, cost-per-click (CPC) advertising service. The Adfusion editorial staff writes articles of 500-700 words. These articles offer useful content, no sales pitches, and click-through links to the advertiser's site. Advertisers can access an online dashboard that displays real-time reports on impressions, article reads, click-throughs, ad spend per link, and, through Adfusion-supplied tracking pixels, conversions.
Interestingly, Adfusion is not an SEO (define) solution, like some other article-writing companies out there whose purpose may not be for the content to be found at all. Adfusion wants its articles to be seen and read because the company already knows the power of content. The solution might also be viewed as a way for advertisers of all sizes, not just large ones, to easily and relatively risk-free break into the online advertorial space.
Adfusion is a division of ARA Content, a company that has been writing AP-style feature articles and getting them placed in print publications, including 50 of the top 100 U.S. daily newspapers, for over 10 years. In fact, it was ARA Content's success with its offline efforts for well known brands like AOL, Home Depot, Texas Instruments, and U.S. Bank that got it thinking about how to leverage the same model on the Web.
As a big believer in the power of PR and editorial content, I think the latest developments in text-based content advertising are a good thing for advertisers. Our client campaigns contain more and more content-based text advertising buys because they continue to prove measurable value. Content advertising can provide powerful, cost-effective results and be a fine balance to a media plan that can also contain splashy video and rich media display advertising. Don't be surprised if text-based content advertising is the sleeper success of the next 12 months.
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Hollis Thomases is president and founder of WebAdvantage.net, an interactive marketing, promotions, and advertising agency. An award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis was named one of Baltimore's "40 Under 40" in 2003. She was sole recipient of the 2002 Bush Declaration Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit. Hollis speaks extensively on interactive marketing, having presented for ClickZ, Jupiter Research, The Kelsey Group, the American Marketing Association, the Direct Marketing Association, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, the Business Marketing Association, and The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. She sits on several public and private sector advisory boards. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Zurich North America, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association and AMVETS. Its Web site was named one of Forbes magazine's "Best of B2B Sites" for media and advertising.