What if online ads were so useful and informative that people actually came to content sites to see the ads as much as they did to see the content?
Far fetched? Maybe not so far or fetched.
We know that ads are a big draw for consumers around events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars. Classified ads have always been a big reason people buy newspapers. Certainly fashion magazine ads drive interest in those publications.
Why can’t this happen on the web? It already has.
Ads on Google search result pages have become integrated in the content in a way that is informative and useful. Having ads in the content has proven not to harm adoption or use of Google. In fact, just the opposite has occurred. And aren’t sites like eBay and Craigslist just a bunch of ads?
The bigger questions is can this happen is display? Changing people’s blindness after having irrelevant messages and creative blasted at them for a decade needs the hand of an evangelical miracle worker. Semantic based applications & mashup ads may just answer that calling.
The first and hardest part is not changing the hearts and minds of advertisers but of publishers. It’s important for publishers to look at ads as content or at the very least applications that can improve the value of their content.
Publishers who have been weaned on the nipple of display advertising during these formative years of the web (and are now crashing hard) must move away from page view experiences —the static delivery of content strategized and designed around as many clicks as possible and move towards a relevant design experience – the dynamic delivery of content strategized and designed around the users interest and intent.
Semantic ads take this dynamic experience a step further. They merge the publisher content with the advertisement. The effect of this dynamic experience is to create interest or intent and radically increase value for everyone in the ecosystem.
People are drawn to the ads because of their relevant utility. Advertisers leverage the huge increases in performance metrics. Publishers find that the value of their content increases – and not just of their proprietary content but the entire brand experience – an experience that by necessity must include advertisements.
In only a couple of years I see that day that people come to the NYTimes.com Style Section because they will be able to shop the fall collections or to AllRecipes.com because they’ll be able to order groceries they need to make Friday night dinner. We already have a small window into the effect mashing up content and advertising applications can have on consumers with sites like TripAdvisor and OpenTable.
Poor display advertising performance is not an advertiser problem if only because advertisers cannot fix it and eventually (err, already ) they are learning to exploit it. It is a publisher problem.
The web has destroyed the value of publishing. New value systems need to be created that leverage the web content as platform to build applications. It is not going to be behavioral targeting or ad networks that do this. It needs to be the ads themselves. The content, context, helpfulness, usefulness and utility of the next generation of display ads are where this value is being created.