Ads as Content – Content as Ads


It is hard to believe but we are ONLY 5 years into search
advertising reaching critical mass. In the blink of an eye it has emerged as
one of the world’s most disruptive and successful technology initiatives.
Google alone made over $20B in revenue from it last year. For me the key
takeaway for the next generation of advertising technology is:

The marketing and advertising apparatus of the web has to be built into
its underlying architecture and seamlessly integrate into the way people use it.

Sounds so simple. Yet so much time, energy and money has
been spent trying to retrofit solutions — attempts to anticipate or modify conventional
(goal-based) web behavior with ads. While these ideas have short bursts of
energy and sometimes glorious exits they eventually die without the scalable
and sustainable foundation of the web itself and the way people use it.

To examine this deeper we should look at Google’s foundation,
page rank. Page rank is based on links, the underlying architecture of the web. It works
great at delivering relevance to people from one place (the page) to another (Google)
based on a few major rules (query & authority).  The end result, the product, is a mashup of content into a
search results page that the user maintains control over.

The ad platform that supports this is also built around the query
and a different kind of authority, performance (quality score). The pricing and
display are directly correlated to the same inputs and outputs that drive the
underlying content. In fact there is the amazing ability to modify the
relevance of the publisher content (the SERP) to adjust ad performance and
revenue. I’m not suggesting this takes place but the important point is (to
paraphrase Neil Young) ”it’s all one song!”

This blueprint is essential as we look to develop products
that optimize advertising and marketing. Unless we are making the web better
and more useful for people we will never achieve results or scale that breed
success. This was the ultimate failing of display advertising – it did not add
relevance or interest to the audience, it did not make the underlying content
more valuable and it did not perform well for advertisers. That is all about to

We are moving forward with a web less about links and more
about correlations. Less about talking at someone and more about bringing people,
messages and content together. We would be smart to learn from search that if ads
are integrated with content in a helpful, useful and ultimately relevant way they
can not only support the underlying content but also provide great results for
the advertiser and audience. After all, who hasn’t clicked an ad from a search?



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4 responses to “Ads as Content – Content as Ads”

  1. Scott Hoffman Avatar

    Jon, couldn’t agree more with you! By targeting smartly (as smartly as Google has done with search) display advertising can be seen by both marketers and consumers as a relevant added value, rather than a irrelevant waste of pixels.


  2. Jonathan Mendez Avatar

    Thanks Scott. The great Howard Gossage quote comes to mind.
    “People don’t read ads. They read what interests them. Sometimes that’s an ad.”


  3. Lodewijk Avatar

    halleluja, nice article most advertisers just want their ads to be displayed on the places where most people see them. To talk in web terms, these kinda ads/posters have very low CTR!
    That quote is great indeed!


  4. Katherine Warman Kern Avatar

    Context is everything.


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