Advertising Jumps The Shark: Becomes Conduit For Content

Intel-AdIn a surprising twist for the advertising industry, the hottest new model being developed by digital ad platforms is flipping the historic model between advertising and content: Instead of editorial or entertainment content being a conduit to distribute advertising, advertising is becoming a means for distributing content. The latest manifestation of this trend comes from Kontera, a company that helped pioneer the field of so-called “in-text” advertising, which today will unveil an ambitious new initiative enabling advertisers to pull any form of content -- including “owned,” professionally produced or user-generated -- directly into some new, dynamically served advertising units.

Kontera calls the effort a “content activation platform,” and it is powered by a sophisticated semantic technology it developed that crawls millions of professionally produced and user-generated pages of content on the Web and associates, and filters them based on their contextual relevance to a brand’s advertising message. The platform enables advertisers and agency executives to pull that content directly into real-time ads served on publishers' pages.

Kontera's CEO Yoav Shaham says the ads need to follow rigorous business rules protecting the rights of copyright holders and individual users posting comments and content on social media platforms, but the goal is to augment an advertiser’s own message dynamically with relevant content. In many cases, Shaham said the content will draw on a marketer’s owned content. But in its most extreme examples, the system will enable marketers to pull an individual user’s own words directly into an ad. To date, Kontera is primarily working with Twitter feeds to power the user-generated component (see sample below), but it’s not inconceivable in this scenario that an individual user could tweet a comment relevant to a brand, have Kontera’s system filter and pull their tweet into an ad that is served to them based on their own relevance, effectively enabling the user to target themselves with their own content.

Kontera’s platform is the latest in a series of progressions by online ad platforms to bring dynamic content into online display ads, including super-rich ad formats like those developed by Pictela, SayMedia, and Spongecell. Recently, online tech and lifestyle blog network NetShelter began rolling out a similar feature dubbed InPowered that will pull third-party content -- typically a blogger’s posts -- that is relevant to an advertiser’s message directly into their dynamically served display ads.

Peyman Nilforoush, founder and CEO of NetShelter, says the move is the next logical progression of so-called “earned media” because it enables brands to tap into the most relevant comments and content objective third parties are posting about their brands directly into their own ads, making the advertising more relevant, more likely to be engaged and even redistributed.

While the jury may still be out in terms of how individual users react to the progression, at least one marketer is a big fan of Kontera’s approach.

"We believe that using compelling content to connect with consumer passion points is a significant ingredient in the future of digital marketing," said Linda Boff, executive director of global digital marketing at GE. "We've been moving in this direction for some time, and our recent HealthyShare initiative around the Olympics shows how consumers will rally and connect with a brand provided content for its intrinsic value." 


20 comments about "Advertising Jumps The Shark: Becomes Conduit For Content".
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  1. Brad Warkins from Gaiam, October 17, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

    Joe, unless you meant to say that Kontera has implemented something so ridiculous they have rendered themselves irrelevant, you might want to change that headline. ...or maybe that's what you meant, in which case a headline is probably not the best place for sarcasm in an industry tracker.

  2. Tyler Tanaka from PostRelease, October 17, 2012 at 10:31 a.m.

    PostRelease ( has been placing content in the native feed of blogs, forums and sites for quite some time. Being able to help brands deliver content to contextually relevant audiences shows just how far content marketing has come. Not to mention that its great for the publishers as well.

  3. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., October 17, 2012 at 10:48 a.m.

    @Brad: Thank you for the suggestion. The headline doesn't refer to Kontera specifically, but to the evolution of advertising in general. Kontera's solution is an ingenious use of technology and part of a progression that other developers have been enabling (thanks Tyler for your PostRelease notation). I have no doubt other developers and technologies will push the envelope even further, but the headline addresses the fact that - in the most extreme scenario, a consumer could end up being their own source for targeting themselves with their own user-generated content. And to me, at least, that is akin to the ad industry jumping a shark like Fonzi did on Happy Days. Or as one Urban Dictionary definition puts it:
    "A defining point in any business, relationship or other human engagement in which a peer or superior behaves in a way that eliminates any traces of his/her credibility and, consequently, any sense of purpose in continuing the overall engagement."

  4. Steve Patrizi from Pinterest, October 17, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.

    Joe - I think the point Brad is making that the "Jumping the Shark" is a reference to a point where something becomes laughably ridiculous to the extent that it's over/declines in quality - that's certainly what happened with the Fonzi/Happy Days episode. I'm not sure that's what's happening here in advertising, in fact, I think it's the opposite.

    Here's the Wikipedia entry for Shark-jumping:

  5. Jesus Grana from Independent, October 17, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.

    you mean something like....Digital advertorials???? How innovative!!!!! (sorry for the sarcasm)

  6. Anthony Baker from Technorati Media, October 17, 2012 at 12:58 p.m.

    Technorati Media ( has been doing this for years now, populating ads with feeds from numerous social platforms from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram. While it's a great idea and highly effective, it's not new. :)

  7. Diaz Nesamoney from Jivox, October 17, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.

    This is a very timely article and speaks to what we are seeing increasingly. The ad experience for users becomes much more palatable when it offers up interesting content along with the ad that is useful to the user. Content could be social "what others are saying", product related (videos, brochures, galleries), entertainment (quizzes, games), rewards (music downloads) etc. We are seeing engagement levels go up 5-10 fold when content is intergrated into the ad experience via our platform. Federated Media's conversational ad units are another great example of integrating content with ads.

  8. Eric Conn from Leverege, October 17, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.

    Jumping the shark discussion aside, content-rich advertising seems to be a natural progression for an industry suffering from ad blindness. The introduction of expandable light boxes and larger format engagement ads certainly opens the door to bringing a better advertising experience to end-users. My company Gloto is seeing great demand from publishers and media agencies for highly engaging, content-rich ad units and early performance metrics are very encouraging. We still get push back on incorporating UGC but it seems inevitable that brands will start to embrace that type of content if it can be appropriately filtered.

  9. Ammiel Kamon from Kontera, October 17, 2012 at 5:11 p.m.

    @Diaz - correct. very timely, very in demand by brands.

    @Anthony - correct that related content in ads is not new (e.g. NYT covered Ritz/Kontera doing this last summer). What is new is a platform, built around content and social intelligence, in the hands of brands to deliver the direct control and curation of content to be activated. Also informs overall content marketing efforts outside of a media buy. This is a must for agile content marketing,

    Here's a link where you can see the breadth/scope of the solution: -

  10. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, October 23, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.

    This is wrong on a number of levels.-->

    As the previous comments indicate, the headline misuses "jump the shark". Advertising isn't jumping the shark, going off track, losing its meaning -- at least, not with this development.-->

    Secondly, not only is "in text" advertising not new, neither is the idea of advertising as a means of distributing content. For most of the mid-20th century, most TV and Radio programs were sponsored, e.g., Texaco Star Theater. In the '60s and '70s, the model flipped to what's familiar today, content as a means of distributing advertising.-->

    So, we can debate the headline but the bigger discussion would be to debate the lede.

  11. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., October 23, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.

    @Steve Schildwachter: Thank you for adding your thoughts to this, and I'm clearly on the losing side of this debate, so let me use your comments as another opportunity to clarify what I attempted to convey by both the headline and the development I thought was so newsworthy. And it's not about in-text advertising at all, or even the blurry lines that can separate advertising and non-advertising content (as you note, that has happened since the inception of ad-supported media). My point is that it was always ad-supported media: A medium being supported via advertising. Technologies like Kontera's, inPowered's and others now make it possible for advertising to be the distribution medium for journalism, entertainment or user-generated content. That's the big change and it's a role reversal.

    The point about jumping the shark was taking it to the extreme scenario in which a platform like Kontera's could conceivably have an individual user target themselves with their own tweet on behalf of a brand. If no one gets the implications of that, then I clearly misjudged the significance of this development, and definitely misused the term jumping the shark.

  12. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, October 23, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.

    Thanks for staying engaged int he discussion, Joe. No one's losing if we're still sorting it out. My point was not about a blurry line between advertising and content. It's that your lede, "flipping the historic model," is actually not news. The Texaco example isn't a blurry line. It's ad time that carried almost all content, versus what happened later and since, content interrupted by ad time. I agree with you, it's a significant development. Maybe not a shark jump, but clearly something worth noting.

  13. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., October 23, 2012 at 12:54 p.m.

    I don't agree with your analogy, Steve. In the Texaco Star Theater example you give, advertising may have underwritten the distribution of the content, but it was not the distributor. NBC was. Give me an example where advertising was the conduit (a media platform) for distributing content? I'm talking about the ads being the media distribution platform, and the content -- professionally produced journalism or entertainment content, or user-generated content -- being distributed (not underwritten or sponsored by) the ads. That's the difference. (And don't say pennysavers!)

  14. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, October 23, 2012 at 1:18 p.m.

    Texaco bought and owned the air time, and incorporated their messages into the content, rather than interrupting content with the messages. NBC owned the medium that allowed this process. Kontera, similarly, allows GE and other companies to do the same: Buy the ad space and use it to distribute content. --> In all cases, advertising money facilitates the transaction, but the user experience is worlds apart. Whether it's Texaco Star Theater on NBC or a GE ad served via Kontera, users get content they want. In the model of the past 50 years, users had to put up with interruptions to their content, many of them irrelevant. --> You are correct to point out that Kontera's content activation platform is something we should all watch. You are also correct to say that it flips the familiar model. I'm only saying that the familiar model was a flip from something similar in the annals of advertising history.

  15. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., October 23, 2012 at 1:26 p.m.

    Not debating the economic (or sponsorship) models, just making the case that this is a new distribution model. In this case, advertising literally is becoming the distribution platform, because third-party content (editorial or user-generated) is being served to a consumer via the advertiser's, not the publisher's, servers. That's the new thing. That's the distinction. And I agree, it is worth keeping an eye on.

  16. Eric Conn from Leverege, October 23, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.

    @Joe Mandese: I completely agree with your comment about the ad networks evolving into the distribution platform for content. From a marketing perspective, advertisers are starting to understand that it might be more efficient (and cheaper) to use the built-in targeting of ad networks to deliver compelling content rather than building a destination separately and then layering on an advertising campaign to target the right users and drive traffic to it. Although this approach doesn't always make sense, new expandable ad formats that are dynamically updated through content feeds (brand or UGC) are increasingly becoming an attractive alternative.

  17. Ammiel Kamon from Kontera, October 23, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.

    @Steve - The model of brands delivering content may not be new (Soap Opera anyone?). But I believe that there is asignifcant movement in digital, today, which is quite new.

    Three factors coming together:

    1. Critical mass of CMOs and entire marketing team starting to align around content as a strategy to connect with consumers in digital. Just read the latest comments from Ford's CMO, Linda from GE which Joe mentions, and a host of others.

    2. Critical mass of meaningful and relevant content that can be used -- brand produced or affiliated video channels, a plethora of related voices and useable content on-line from around the web, tips and trick libraries (Microsoft sys admin technotes. Heinz recepies), very informative brand and product information sites that are often managed like publications, and lets not forget the major social destinations.

    3. A movement amongst the marketing technology providers to solve this and bring together #1 and #2 above. And to now do it in a scalable and actionable form. This is what is giving the rise and relevance to the native ad movement, and this is also what drove the creation of this new Content Insights and Curation suite from Kontera.

    I believe that 2013 will see some significant, and frankly welcome, developments in how brands market and connect in digital - purposely using "market" rather than "advertise".

    In Kontera's case we provide intelligence about all content that a brand could use, give brands and agencies tools and information to market with that content (think intelligence for their community managers and brand editors, who are making real-time decisions on what content they may need to develop or promote. We also power the dynamic syndication of their content across Display and Mobile, and placement within the major social destinations. Net result is that brands get an always-on content distribution dashboard... and that's quite new.


  18. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, October 23, 2012 at 2:09 p.m.

    Thank you, Ammiel. Soap opera is another good example. It may have been true fifty years ago that brands delivered content. It doesn't matter that much, however. The only thing it proves is that for the past fifty years we've been force-feeding audiences our advertising when they wanted their content. The first 15-20 years of web display ads followed that model. As you point out, we're changing now because we are both willing and able. The hardest thing for many advertising people won't be understanding the benefits, it will be having enough of an open mind to stop the current way of thinking of working.

  19. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, October 23, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.

    Great discussion; here's my tribute to it:

  20. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., October 23, 2012 at 7:16 p.m.

    Wow, thanks for contributing to - and amplifying - the discussion Steve. Glad to see it's stimulating such a debate.

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