Retargeter Blog

Think Different About Your Ads


This 1997 ad launched Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign, marking the beginning of Apple’s Renaissance. In the fiscal year prior, the company had lost $1 billion dollars and was in danger of falling into obscurity. Today it’s a $184 billion company–the second largest in the world. I’m hardly suggesting this ad campaign is responsible for the turnaround, but it did help to refurbish the brand’s image and reestablish Apple as a force to be reckoned with. I would also argue it’s one of the more memorable ads of the 1990s, and a standout in Apple’s long history of phenomenal marketing campaigns.

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, recently described his company’s take on advertising:

“We believe ads are content. When ads are good and they work well, they can be as meaningful as the content they’re sitting next to.”

I couldn’t agree more. Thoughtful and creative ads like the ‘Think Different’ ad are more than just noise or distractions. They are content. Though this particular ad is 14 years old, it’s still generating thousands of views on YouTube and is considered iconic—the same way movies, books or works of art can be considered iconic.

It may not be obvious how this is applicable to online advertising, but if you aren’t treating your online ads as content you could be seriously underutilizing them. It’s certainly true that you will not have the same budget for a banner ad that you might have for, say, a SuperBowl commercial, and it’s also true that you will often have much less real estate online. But by changing your mindset, and treating your ads the same way you would treat other valuable content, you can create a much more engaging experience for your consumers.

Take YouTube’s new ad platform for example. YouTube’s TrueView video ad platform, which allows users to skip ads after 5 seconds, has become extremely popular and accounts for over half of all YouTube ads.  (Advertisers do not pay for skipped ads). Although many were initially skeptical about the skippable format, assuming no ads would ever be viewed, this medium has proved to be a blessing in disguise. It provides advertisers with valuable feedback, namely which ads are being skipped and which are being watched, and, as it turns out, people actually are watching ads. It also forces advertisers to create compelling, meaningful content that is relevant to the YouTube user. Many companies have stepped up to the challenge by using new contextual targeting techniques to show ads that relate to the video they precede. For example, a cute dog video is preceded by a commercial for life insurance featuring, well, a cute dog.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while creating content for your ads:

  •  Try to capitalize on the same emotions that make iconic television ads like the ‘Think Different’ ad so memorable.
  • Take another cue from Apple, and make sure your messaging is consistent across all your ads, and not running counter to your branding.
  • Devote adequate resources to creative, and work on making your ads as visually appealing as possible.
  • Take advantage of tools like rich media, so you can use limited space to the fullest. With rich media you can take banner ads, a medium we don’t often associate with feats of creative genius, and make them engaging, beautiful, compelling and different.
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