Marketing in 2013 – Ads Are Only the Beginning

Online ad spending is gaining strength again. This week’s release of ZenithOptimedia’s Global Advertising Forecast found that global ad spending will rise in 2013 – and that its growth is largely fueled by digital media.

Spending on online advertising is expected to grow by more than 14 percent this year, compared with a meager 1.6 percent for traditional media. It’s predicted that display advertising will continue to balloon at a rate of 20 percent per year, with spending on online video and social media growing by 30 percent each.

Marketers are clearly eager to invest in digital advertising…but is that enough? Can display ads and video, social media and mobile lure consumers away from competitors all on their own? The answer, increasingly, is no. Ads may be the foundation of your digital marketing campaign, and the media buys you make may be essential to sustaining your brand, increasing your exposure, and generating sales. But if you really want to engage – to connect with the kinds of consumers who’ll be brand advocates and lifelong fans – you need to offer more than an ad message.

Ads? Those are just the beginning.

There are a number of ways to enhance your ad campaigns, and just as many brands in the process of testing them out. In this way they can gauge what works best for them: where their customers spend their time, where they’re likely to feel most comfortable interacting with a brand or product, and what kind of “bonus content” resonates with them above all else.

Theatrical Content

You’ve made your online videos and placed them with the hope that they’ll go viral. Don’t stop there. Many brands are now supplementing their viral ads with related branded content that serves a solitary purpose: to entertain the masses. These videos and films and microsites are the circus of digital media: designed to amuse and delight, full of tricks and performance art. They don’t distinguish between potential customers and crowds, instead offering themselves up to everyone. They’re represented by projects like Evian’s “Let’s Baby Dance” (the “longest dance in the world”), Coca-Cola’s “Polar Bears Film: 2013,” and Intel and Toshiba’s web series “The Beauty Inside.” This kind of content has a long online life, and is always waiting in the wings to enrich your current ad campaign with buzz and shares that ultimately result in added attention for your brand.


Live Facebook and Twitter Chats

Brands often align themselves with experts who can speak to the value of their products, and this approach can up their cultural significance in the eyes of consumers. Featuring a product designer in your opt-in email is good. Offering customers the chance to chat with her live is better. A two-way dialogue that takes place live on Facebook or Twitter becomes an intimate platform for communication: a product expert, stylist, author, or celebrity spokesperson can use it to highlight the virtues of your brand and further connect consumers with your unique persona, image, and point of view. Pottery Barn has been known to take this approach, inviting customers through email and Facebook to participate in a live chat with interior designers and party planners. Consumers love the exclusive feel of such events, and recognize that while the brand’s voice is being heard through its relevant guest, so too is their own.



Content-Based Contests

There are those contests tied to current display, social, and mobile ad campaigns – and then there are those that are promoted with added-value content. An example of the latter comes from Pepsi and its “Wheel of Levy” microsite. While it offers users the chance to win a coupon for a free Pepsi Next, the real value is in its short videos of brand spokesperson William Levy. There’s a little something for everyone, from humor to implied romance. The contest helps to attract site visitors, but it’s the videos, not the promise of a free product sample, that guide this kind of effort, and that augment the brand’s standard digital media buys.


Consumers expect a lot from today’s brands. They want product intelligence, relevance, and a timely delivery of well-placed ads – and they want these things served with a side of engagement, entertainment, and fun. Modern digital marketing efforts don’t have to be all things to all people…but they do have to go well beyond the media buys of old. Spend on digital media, by all means – you won’t regret it. Just don’t forget to heighten your digital presence with something more.

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