Using Programmatic: Content Marketing Via Display Can Be As Effective As Social Media

Gilad de Vries wrote something in a column last week that really resonated with me. Writing about distribution as part of an effective content marketing strategy, this is what the senior vice president of Outbrain had to say: “Another channel to keep in mind is display. While it may seem on the surface like content and display ads are on the opposite ends of the marketing spectrum, it turns out that integrating content into display ads increases reach, precision, relevance and engagement rates.”

Did he hit the nail on the head, or what? Display is the perfect vehicle for content distribution, particularly when it’s purchased programmatically across niche sites. In fact, I would argue that it’s easily as effective as social for content marketing. Here’s why:

1.     Reach: While Facebook, Twitter and the like offer tremendous reach, not every individual in every demographic spends time on social networks. (For example, only seven of the CEOs on the Fortune 500 have Facebook accounts, according to  If you’re relying solely on these channels to distribute your content, you’re missing roughly half of the U.S. population. Adding display advertising would dramatically increase your odds of reaching your target. Zooming in on niche content sites would also diversify your audience; after all, it’s the same billion people who visit the big four. Purchasing inventory on sites about scuba diving and home decorating will help you reach some new eyeballs.



2.     Targeting: Yes, social networks are amazing for targeting, but there are even better targeting tools in programmatic buying today. To my earlier point about targeting niche content: a Discovery Channel audience buy can put your ad in front of an enormous, engaged set of middle-aged men who enjoy oddball programming about “Hillbilly Hand Fishing” and pawn shops. There’s no need to cherry-pick shows; you can purchase by demographic, psychographic or behavior. It’s a very different and more scalable way to target than by using Facebook to reach graduates of U Conn. who live within 50 miles of New York City and like Kid Rock. I’m not saying that one method is better than the other, but pairing the two targeting methods can make for a powerful mix.

3.     Dynamic content:  In another amazing technological advance, content can be dynamically inserted into an ad unit in real time. This means you can effectively change the content in your ad to match the site on which it’s appearing, effectively “native-izing” your already-targeted ad. That’s a great tool to create content-based ads that resonate.

Of course, great content is the key to successful content marketing -- no matter what the distribution channel.  Amazing content, even when it’s advertorial, is shared and reposted repeatedly. To drive this kind of response, you have to know what drives your audience.  Publishers like Thought Catalog and Complex  Media don’t have the distribution power of Forbes or the New York Times, but Millennials adore their quirky editorial and share it frequently -- as in, thousands of times. These publishers have a “cool factor” that their audiences respond to. What does your audience love, and how can you infuse that passion into your content?

And keep in mind: Great, shareable content doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a “list-cicle.” Your detergent’s “Three Can’t-Miss Stain-Removing Tips” probably won’t engage audiences as well as a video demo or stain remover game. Really, you don’t have to make your audience read all the time -- they can watch and interact, too. Technology is cool like that. And rich, interactive content will perform better in social and in display.

By pairing content distribution via social networks with display on niche sites, everyone wins. Smart distribution of your witty, engaging content via programmatic can make those smaller sites your best performers. Small is beautiful, yes, but small is even more beautiful at scale.

2 comments about "Using Programmatic: Content Marketing Via Display Can Be As Effective As Social Media".
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  1. Karan Bavandi from Webspectator Corp., July 9, 2013 at 6:14 p.m.

    You can even add more value to this with our Webspectator technology. We have the ability to deliver a new ad unit every 20 seconds and without the need to refresh the page while the ad unit is in view. Content on the page can also be analyzed during that time for better targeting. Exciting times :)

  2. Gilad De vries from Outbrain, July 10, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.

    Thanks for mentioning my Digiday post, Skip.
    I just want to clarify something: I didnt say that display is a great vehicle, or the perfect vehicle, for content discovery. I only said that if content is used inside display it will help it get a little better in terms of engagement.
    In fact, leveraging content discovery platforms -like Outbrain - proves to outperform display from both scale and cost as well as post click engagement perspectives.

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