What are ads?

By Published On: Apr 12, 20183.6 min read

The other day, I was reading an article from Adweek on how content that consumers share and interact with might really be ads, and they don’t even know it. It was an article about GIFs, and the examples provided in the article included frequently shared Gatorade and Converse GIFs that were in fact created and placed as a way to advertise the brand and the product.

While some may read this as the downside of advertising – constant content being created and published on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap, YouTube, etc. – there is little doubt that this kind of content creation has led to increased debate and confusion about whether or not content shared is actually being seen organically by the end consumer. Is this image or video with a little bit of caption an ad to sell Nike or Adidas sneakers? Or is it content that’s shown up in my feed because my friends and interests have all led me to this very moment in time? Unless it says “sponsored” in one of the four corners of your screen, it can be difficult to tell.

But in my eyes, this is the opportunity. There’s a lot to be said about brands that are able to expand outside of creating content for the sake of content and focus on what makes the brand more attractive to consumers. That is, focus on the “what” and “why” of consumer purchases. Then, with a little help from data and analytics, determine which platforms those end consumers are using. Successful brands don’t create content and publish it anywhere – they focus on who they want to see it, and what the impact of their messaging will be. Spotify’s out-of-home ads at the end of 2017 were a great example of this.

As advertisers, our job isn’t just to create content and place it as a paid ad. It’s to help create content that extends the brand story and find the best platform possible to share it on. Before Giphy, there was Instagram. Before there was Instagram, there was Facebook. Before that, the internet. Before the internet, there was television, newspapers, billboards, radio… and so much more. It’s our job to help optimize where a conversation can take place and help create an experience for the brand that resonates and informs its core consumers.

So, this leads me to the question: What are ads? Ads, in their simplest sense, are content designed to sell a product. But in this ever-changing and elastic market, we’re seeing the key to a successful ad is ensuring it’s part of a conversation and isn’t necessarily pushed onto, but rather is pulled by, the consumer. The modern advertisement gives us the ability to see and share content that matters to the consumer. The content is an extension of their virtues and their affinities. It’s the purest form of love for a brand.

Albeit, I’m partial to the word “love” because at DNA we’re dedicated to uncovering love for our clients’ brands. But for consumers to love a brand, the brand should be accessible and have a voice for its consumers. So that’s what we strive to do. We strive to find the channels in which content is most acceptable – where consumers are going to be looking for their favorite brands. The channels where consumers are going to continue sharing that content. And maybe the content will come in the form of a photo, a video or a GIF, or maybe something outside the lines of traditional advertising. We as advertisers don’t choose which brands consumers are going to follow – the consumer does. We don’t choose what the best platform or the best content is either – the consumer does. And, ultimately, it’s the culmination of those things, the right brand in the right place, that leads to success.

For the consumer, that video or image they interacted with and shared might have been an ad. But it also might have been the content that was in the right place at the right time that resonated with them more than anything else at that very moment. The more you strive for the latter, the more clarity you’ll have on whether or not the “ad” was successful.

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