We Love Ads, Oh Yes, We Do 1

This is a guest post from Dan Walsh, an Account Executive at Racepoint Group. Follow him on Twitter @DanWalshed.

We <3 advertising - yes, we do! We <3 advertising - how 'bout you?

“If you ever watch somebody reading a copy of Vanity Fair, they spend as much time looking at the ads as they spend looking at the content,” Mr. Grueskin said, “because the ads are actually useful for readers.” (Ads having value on their own, he added, is “something that we as journalists have a hard time getting our heads around.”)
– From NYT’s “For Journalists, A Call to Rethink Their Online Models

I’m curious about what others think of that statement.

Clearly the goal has always been for ads to be useful (hence the importance of targeting – why would anyone pay attention to an irrelevant ad?) but I’ve rarely considered them to be valuable. As users, we’ve been conditioned to avoid looking at the tops and sides of pages and sponsored links. Simply put, the current advertising model is broken and showing an increasing number of cracks as time goes by.

When BusinessWeek blew up their newsroom in 2009, it was interesting to see Senior Writer Steve Hamm wind up at IBM as a communications strategist. It certainly wasn’t a move that I expected. In Steve’s words, “I work on communications strategy and create content.” Most of that content winds up here: IBM’s A Smarter Planet Blog. If you haven’t checked it out before, it’s worth a look – there’s been a ton of thought provoking posts generated here over the last 2+ years. To me, this is what passes for “valuable” ad content.

In the future I think we’ll see this type of content integrated into a number of news sites. If done right (read: not overtly promotional), brands can help fill the gap in long-form journalism created, in part, by Google News (need to be first!) and the current ad model (low CPMs result in pressure to “get more page views” leading to a struggle over writing for quality vs. writing for quantity).

Of course not every brand can go and hire a former BusinessWeek writer to head up this effort, but don’t worry: PR practitioners would be more than happy to fill that role.

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One thought on “We Love Ads, Oh Yes, We Do

  • Joe Hupcey III

    I’d actually take this whole premise of this one step further: to a true aficionado, there is no such thing as advertising — just vendor supplied content. Case in point: hobbyist magazines. For example, I’m a licensed pilot who is crazy for any information related to aviation. Hence, I when I read “Flying” and “AOPA Pilot” magazines each month (the only paper pubs I still receive, BTW) I read them cover-to-cover, ads and all. The funny part about my reading the ads is that I don’t even own plane; so it’s not like I could even immediately purchase or benefit from 95% of the stuff being advertised!

    Skeptical? Take the above example, and everywhere it says “aviation” replace it with “cycling”. Not only do cycling nuts want to know what Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck eat for breakfast, they are eager to learn where to buy the ingredients, how to tweak the recipe, etc. You get the idea.

    Note that based on initial experience with some B2B blogs and forums around my engineering software product lines, I believe the “there is no such thing as advertising to the aficionado” idea can apply to industrial products too. Granted, it’s not the same intensity as a beloved hobby, but users can and do develop a passion for the B2B tools they use every day. In particular, for one of my company’s product lines (called “Specman”) power users self-identify as “Specmaniacs”. The Specmaniacs regularly follow and contribute to online and real world events related to the product.