While there’s no denying the fact that online content producers must develop revenue legs other than advertising, there’s also no denying that advertising is not holding up it’s end of the bargain. The reasons are myriad from advertisers who measure branding advertising with direct response metrics to publishers who consign ads to web page “ad ghettos,” but while publishers continue to inflate the potential of digital subscriptions, it’s really advertising that must be fixed.
Despite the ascendance of search advertising and click-throughs, brand advertising is not going away, and publishers and brands must work together to create and deliver new ad formats and methods to rejuvenate it. Thankfully we see signs of this happening from iPad iAds to AOL’s Project Devil. Yet whenever a publisher comes out with a new ad unit that they sell for a premium, marketers want to determine its worth using the same old measures – mainly click-throughs – that have been so unsuccessful in the past at measuring branding value. It’s short-sighted because, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that current ad formats are awful and people who click on them are usually poor targets. New effectiveness metrics then, although much more difficult than new ad formats, are also vital.
While not a new ad format, social media advertising (and I don’t just mean simply advertising on social media sites) is now leading the way in brand advertising. Social media gives marketers the ability for their brands to display more personality, better target, and more fully engage resulting in a more robust experience for consumers, and content producers need to learn how to play in that arena. There may be no better evidence of this than the current willingness to use social media marketing despite many companies’ inability to measure its effectiveness. Instead of pretending they know which 0.1% of their advertising works, marketers are back to wondering which 50% works. And that, sad to say, is progress.