Is Web 2.0 Creating An Ad Trend Towards Promoting Content?

If you pay attention to the ads that monetize most of the web, you’ve likely noticed a trend towards ads that promote content. Glance at these nifty alternatives to traditional banner ads, make some observations of your own, and then join me again at the end for my own analysis.

AMEX Content Ads for Open Forum

Neutrogena Content Ads

Fast Company and Chase Credit Cards Content Ads

LDS Mormon Content Ads

Is web 2.0 moving marketers to view community-building is a desirable goal?


The AMEX ads above are the strongest affirmative answer to that question. The ads’ main goal is to drive entrepreneurs to AMEX’s Open Forum initiative, where the business owners can pick up expert tips to manage their businesses. Not only that, but AMEX has developed a ‘Connectodex’ service that helps SMB owners make connections amongst themselves.

In exchange, AMEX gets brand awareness with excellent targeting, filling the top of the sales funnel. They’ve also got a direct response effort going on at the site itself that succeeds in balancing AMEX’s revenue goals with visitors’ learning goals. You might have also noticed the subtle ‘Apply Now’ call to action in the banner’s upper right corner that ties into this.


This co-branded ad with the Glam network tries to target 20- and 30-somethings, judging by the models and the text of the ad. And instead of talking about “me,” the ad focuses on “you” by offering tips presumably geared towards their audience’s interest.

I didn’t click the ad (I already know how to stay fabulous, duh), but I’m guessing by the co-branding with Glam that Neutrogena’s chosen to answer my question in the negative. They don’t want to build their own community of 20-something women.

Chase / Visa / Marriott Rewards

The ad targets an  affluent demographic of travelling businessmen who would presumably care for a hotel-rewards card with content that solicits them by name, as with AMEX’s focus on business owners. But the approach appears to be the same as with Neutrogena – sponsor content without hosting/ “owning” it.

(As an aside, I think the particular piece of content they’re sponsoring is brilliant given the bulls-eye targeting it affords Chase/Visa/Marriott.)


The Church of Latter Day Saints (CLDS) has a pretty unique situation:

  • They have the express offline goal of bringing you into their community
  • Their website features more content, just like AMEX
  • The website’s format isn’t so much of a traditional online community where you have a multilateral conversation, but more of a guidance counsellor office type of place where you can put your questions to a missionary 1-on-1

As with other lead gen campaigns, the Mormons seem to have concluded that offering content and then gradually nurturing the lead is more effective than going for an immediate sale. This is reflected in their ‘Find a Meetinghouse [a Church]’ call to action getting secondary treatment below the fold.

But by promoting their content (particularly with the clever flash-animated instant messaging  format), the CLDS is clearly promoting its content to build community.

What about SEO?

The lessons from these campaigns aren’t unique to banner ad campaigns.

When you’re buying or building links, you can be quite successful going with a content marketing approach. And if you own the community, you get the opportunity for both brand awareness/top of mind campaigning and your own customized direct response package. Which means you can be more aggressive with your SEO (eg by buying links) as well as reduce your dependency on search traffic. Inhouse community-building FTW!

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It appears the clairvoyant John Battelle called this as a 2009 prediction. In fairness, his Federated Media works with many of the companies employing this strategy, as he reveals in his 2009 Predictions: How Did I Do? post. Also, I recall Aaron Wall highlighting the foundation for this trend – advertisers creating their own content sites [not to be confused with website copy] – but it seems that hasn’t stopped them from advertising as Aaron suggested; instead they’re just advertising content.

Gab Goldenberg Gab Goldenberg wrote this post for Red Fly Marketing, an Irish search engine optimisation and online advertising company. You can find Gab on Twitter @GabGoldenberg.

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