Don’t Tell Your Brand Story Without Display Ads

It’s been a year since the launch of Coca-Cola Journey, an ambitious project that eschewed traditional corporate marketing in lieu of consumer-oriented content. Introduced in November of 2012, Journey is a corporate site in online magazine’s clothing, featuring articles, videos, and “more than 70 other pieces of original content.” It has everything you’d expect of a consumer magazine, including a list of its most-read posts of the year. One is a recipe. The rest? Branded stories.

It’s been a big year for brand storytelling online. The idea that brands can parlay their history and culture into an engaging story for consumers is very alluring. It’s a marketing strategy that creates lasting content, perfect for sharing. It can breed loyalty and turn new customers and potential customers into fans, and for this reason countless brands are expanding their site content to incorporate storytelling.

In order to be effective, though, brand stories must be seen. Marketers need a content distribution strategy that drives engagement and reaches audiences beyond owned and social media assets. Posts on social networks can increase awareness, but are they enough? Do they have the reach brands need to attract large audiences to what is arguably their most interesting content?

Enter rich media display ads. Blending visual marketing with interactivity and site relevance, banners are ideally suited to promote your digital stories. They’re the breadcrumb trail that will lead consumers straight to your door. Display ads can act as teasers for the content to come, allowing site users to preview branded content before they click. An ad that offers a sneak peek at a brand story does its part to provide value to consumers, as well as reduce concerns about banner blindness. In essence, it can turn a paid media placement into a trailer for the long-form content that’s available on your site.

Bring the Content to the Ad

American Express’s Passion Project provides a great example of how banners can be used to effectively promote brand stories. Running on sites like Vanity Fair, the interactive display ads allow users to choose from among a dozen 2 to 3-minute videos. The clips feature participants in the Passion Project: a campaign that showcases American Express members who successfully parlayed their passion into a business.


While the video content featured in the ads is available on American Express’ YouTube page as well as a dedicated campaign site, bringing it directly to consumers ups the odds that it will be viewed. It also serves to pre-qualify the brand’s audience. Watch a video or two and you’re hooked – all without leaving the Vanity Fair content you came to see.

It isn’t necessary to cram all of your branded content into a single display ad, but even offering a portion of it for consumers to assess can pique their interest in your campaign. Those who click through after watching a video or two are all the more likely to engage with your story and share it with friends.

Invest in Multimedia

Brand storytelling in digital form is most interesting when it combines numerous formats: text, video, photography, and app-like tools for deeper exploration. A current display ad campaign for the men’s Swiss watch brand IWC Schaffhausen leverages multiple elements from the Experiences section of its Web site in order to create an immersive interactive banner.


Currently running in the Travel section of the New York Times online, the ad includes a text description of the brand’s affiliation with the author of famed novella “Le Petit Prince,” whose involvement with aviation inspired several of IWC’s models. A related video, additional history about the book’s author, a product photo, and a boutique search tool round out the ample expanding banner.

Even though the information featured in the ad can be found in further detail online, manipulating it to conform to a banner format and offering it as a multimedia in-site experience invites consumers to get to know the brand’s story in a distinct and interactive way. The banner reflects the brand’s dedication to online storytelling in a captivating and memorable way.

As you invest in online storytelling, consider the benefits of promoting it with display ads. Delivering your content to consumers in this way will ensure you get the most mileage out of the stories you want your customers to see.

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