Use content to overcome the digital advertising nightmare

New York Times CEO Mark Thompson recently called digital advertising “a nightmarish joke” – content marketers could have the last laugh

Thompson was speaking in a panel discussion at Cannes Lions, that annual gathering of the world’s advertisers and communicators.

Drawing on recent developments in the world of fake news, Thompson pointed out that Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to speak out against the scandal was undermined by a fake news ad appearing right next to it. For Thompson, the over-complex digital world, dominated by ad tech, audience buying and dodgy middlemen, is a major threat to brand credibility.

In addition to the quandary over where ads appear, brands have to contend with the Facebook-Google duopoly setting the terms and swallowing the money; publishers, left with no choice but to acquiesce, are seeing control over brand image slip away.

For content marketers, Thompson’s most interesting insight was that the rocky landscape for advertisers had been created by “the idea that content doesn’t matter”. Could content provide an escape route from the digital advertising quagmire?

“Turning point”

Commentators concur that advertising is reaching a crossroads. Publishers are taking bold steps to shore up brand image while diversifying revenue streams.

The New York Times itself is a case in point. Its subscriber-based model, controversial at first, has been one of the industry’s major success stories this decade. It’s now an integral source of income, with revenues having grown five-fold since 2011.

Content gating is another solution along similar lines. Although requiring a careful and considered approach, its uptake as a lead-gen tool among B2B content marketers speaks for itself. By filtering out less interested users and leaving commercial teams with a bank of potential leads, it’s a vital part of many firms’ content strategies.

One key thing unites these propositions – content. As the digital world becomes more dangerous, quality content becomes more essential. Whether you’re a newspaper using online articles to tantalise consumers or a B2B brand using registration walls to generate leads, having competition-conquering content at the core is a precursor to success.

Just what the future holds is unclear. Perhaps the Facebook-Google duopoly will become more tyrannical; perhaps inappropriate ad placements will become commonplace. But the best way for brands to control their online image and stand up to the internet’s big beasts is through a dynamic, relevant and authentic content offering.

The digital world is inescapable; publishers, brands and creative businesses of all kinds must acclimatise or face oblivion. But, with top notch content on your side, it can be a dream rather than a nightmare.


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