Is Advertising Just Another Form of Content Marketing?

Jan 22, 2015

Gone are the days of the Mad Men of Madison Avenue. Sad as it is, not only is the midday drinking and smoking gone for good (mostly anyway), but the ads of old are gone as well. Advertising in 1950, 1960, and beyond, was about a cheesy, geo-blanketed, retail-heavy message.

"Come on down and save, save, SAVE!"

Today, the game is different. In the world we live in, what I call the "internet maturation phase," we are covered in white noise. Mindless drivel from every product seller in the world.

We are smothered with ad and logo placements to the point where we tune most of it out. Except for the stuff we REALLY care about.

And that is where the paradigm shift comes into play. Smart advertisers are now focusing on a different form of advertising. And it looks a lot like its marketing brother from another mother, content marketing.

Let me ask you some questions:

  • Do you remember a time when so many advertisements had deep storylines?
  • Do you remember a time where the 30 second ad was outdone by the well-done 60 second, even 120 second ad?

It's a new age. It's what I like to call content advertising. It throws out high-frequency 30-second ads which hammer you over the head with loud announcers and endless sales. Now it's about a story. A feeling. A brand wishing to make a connection with us, the consumers.

Before we look at what I believe good content advertising is made of, let's look at some ad examples.

God made a farmer - Dodge - "Big game" Ad 2013

Despite living in beautiful East Tennessee, I am not a farmer.  However, this ad made me want to be a farmer and buy a truck. This proved a traditional ad does not need to fit into the typical 30 second box.

This two minute ad with the epic 1978 speech by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey was beautiful, and not only did it hit me hard, but I'm sure it hit the target market even harder.

Sam Adams "For the love of beer" - 2013

I'll admit it, this made me want to drink more Sam Adams. Did it have a call to action? No. Did it show a huge URL? No.

It showed passionate people working on their passion: beer. It gave us a behind the scenes look at the beer brewing process and what could be better. This did not feel like an ad, it felt like content only. It just happened to take up 30 seconds, and it made this Boston kid want to buy some of his hometown brew again.

Content Advertising is about two things.

The Story-This is not about a pitch. It's about the story behind a product. Content Advertising brings the story to the forefront. Even some of the fictitious stories-like those of a swashbuckling Captain Morgan-get us thinking about how the original purveyors might have intended the product to be enjoyed.

The story is everything. If it shines through, you win. If it is diminished by Madison Avenue retail nonsense, you lose. Simple as that.

Being Personal-Let's use Apple as a case study for this. Every ad it puts out could easily be about how wonderful the iPad Air 2 is. But it lets their consumer's personal experiences tell the story instead. In my opinion, that has far more impact.

Products impact us personally. When a brand recognizes this and synthesizes it into an "ad," that's where the magic happens. Apple's ads are true. iPad's are used for countless purposes in today's connected world and they deeply impact our lives, our health, and our well-being.  Showing the stories of people impacted by these devices makes it personal. And when advertising gets down to a personal level, it connects.

Traditional advertising is dead. Content Advertising is alive and well, and the sooner we understand its value and impact, the sooner we content creators and marketers will see our brands thrive.