This 1997 ad launched Apples Think Different campaign, marking the beginning of Apples Renaissance. In the fiscal year prior, the company had lost $1 billion dollars and was in danger of falling into obscurity. Today its a $184 billion company–the second largest in the world. Im hardly suggesting this ad campaign is responsible for the turnaround, but it did help to refurbish the brands image and reestablish Apple as a force to be reckoned with. I would also argue its one of the more memorable ads of the 1990s, and a standout in Apples long history of phenomenal marketing campaigns.
Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, recently described his companys 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 couldnt 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, its still generating thousands of views on YouTube and is considered iconicthe 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 arent treating your online ads as content you could be seriously underutilizing them. Its certainly true that you will not have the same budget for a banner ad that you might have for, say, a SuperBowl commercial, and its 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 YouTubes new ad platform for example. YouTubes 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 dont often associate with feats of creative genius, and make them engaging, beautiful, compelling and different.