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Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs

4 Trends in Online Advertising

What comes to mind when you hear the expression “online advertising?” Do you immediately think of pop-up blockers and spam folders? How about free iPod scams, click bots, and low-quality content farms that are set up to do no more than funnel traffic?

The sad truth is that the “good-old-days” of online advertising were full of scams that often left end users powerless and frustrated. It’s also true that advertising scams still happen — there are still many shady advertisers and ad networks who are out to make a quick buck and could care less about user experience. If you care at all about your online audience, these are the organizations and people from whom you should run and hide.

1. Prioritizing User Experience

Keep in mind that online advertising isn’t all bad. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry and a powerful marketing medium that connects well-intentioned advertisers with interested audiences. What advertisers need to do now is prioritize user experience.

“In general, do not have advertisements that interrupt the visitor’s time on your site,” Zach Bulygo wrote in a blog post for KISSmetrics. “They can be viewed as the equivalent of a salesman popping up out of nowhere and giving you a sales message an inch away from your face.”

While you want to create a lasting impression with your target audiences, you don’t want to create an impression for the wrong reasons. No brand wants to be associated with that annoying salesman.

2. Transforming Traditional Channels

Startups such as LaunchBit are tackling the user experience challenges of email, a historically spammy marketing channel. By connecting email newsletter publishers with brands, LaunchBit is redefining the premise behind email marketing. Instead of spamming customers with promotions, brands can unobtrusively supplement the content of existing newsletters.

“LaunchBit ads are text-based with a small image, so that they match the tone and don’t interrupt the content of the newsletter,” WebSiteMagazine’s Allison Howen wrote. “Publishers are given full control over which ads are being published, and can choose which advertisers they would like to partner with.”

Rather than promoting a zero-sum game where brands and consumers are both losing from email spam, LaunchBit creates an advertising ecosystem where the advertiser, publisher, and end-user all win.

3. Creating New Channels

Content marketing has joined forces with online advertising through content recommendation engines like Outbrain. Rather than displaying ads for products, these plugins connect end users with articles. As Mashable puts it, the model is “Sponsored but Good.”

“The concept is that as opposed to simply inserting a direct response ad like you think you might find in AdSense, you get a link to an interesting piece of content,” Mashable writer Adam Ostrow said in 2009. “For example, Palm might want to purchase a sponsored link to a favorable review of the Pre and have it display in the Outbrain widget on selected tech blogs.”

Outbrain’s advertising model is one that prioritizes high quality content, user engagement, and pageview depth. The network has pioneered a new channel that is reinventing the direct response model. The goal is to inspire end users instead of pushing them to make a click or purchase.

4. Improving Efficiency

Ad space is far from a new concept. The business practice is decades old, extending to industries apart from the Internet like televisions and magazines. The premise is simple:  work with publishers and media creators to reach target demographics.

That idea is the principle of isocket, a startup that is enabling high quality publishers to work directly with advertisers.

“It’s a self-service platform, and the publisher is emailed directly once an interested buyer chooses to purchase the ad, allowing them to accept or reject,” Rip Empson wrote in a TechCrunch post.

Isocket has combined the convenience of an ad network with the value proposition and user friendliness of a direct ad sale.

Your Turn What has your experience been with online advertising? Are there any other trends are you’re seeing in online advertising that we didn’t talk about?