Most online advertising is a miserable failure. It is usually ignored by the online consumer; we have trained our eyes to not even see them. And being ignored is just about the best case scenario for an online advertisement.

Consider:

Banner ads are woefully ineffective, and plenty of people think they may be completely phased out in the not-so-distant future (of course, people have been predicting the end of banner ads for at least seven years).  Far worse are the auto-play and pop-up ads that interrupt and inhibit the online experience. It has become an art for the makers of pop-up ads to “hide the X” so that it becomes difficult for the consumer to actually see the information they’ve sought out – how is that drawing the consumer closer to the brand? (Hint: It’s not; it’s pushing them away). And while online video can work, pre-roll ads are generally seen as torturous by most of the online public – I know that whenever I am stuck watching a pre-roll ad, I spend the entire time watching the clock in the upper right ticking down the seconds before I can see my story.

There are some online advertising successes – notably Google Adwords. Okay, that’s one. But for the most part, online advertising is a miserable failure.

News flash – the Internet has brought about the democratization of information, meaning that we can all get information from dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of sources. The informational hierarchy has been largely toppled.  No one is held captive by one or two information sources. On the Internet, we all have freedom of choice – this may or may not be a good thing, but it is reality. So if a website/media outlet/information source gives me a bad experience, I’m outta there, on to the next source that can provide the same information in a more pleasing way.

The first 100 years of big time marketing – that’s last century – was an era of interruption. TV shows and radio shows and newspapers were all supported by advertising that interrupted the consumption of information or entertainment. Your favorite show would come to a full stop about 12 minutes in so you could see ads for beer or cars. After three minutes (and you making a quick run to the kitchen for a snack), the show would resume. Consumers accepted this because they had no choice.

But now we do.

And now that consumers have the power, they have decided that they don’t have to put up with marketers’ rude interruptions any more. Your customers can go anywhere for information, so it’s imperative that you entice them to come to you for it.

More and more, that means sparking the conversation and adding to it rather than interrupting that conversation. It means interacting with the audience, providing your thoughts, and analyzing events and trends in your industry.

If the Internet is a great big cocktail party (and it kinda is), you don’t want to be the obnoxious guy who always interrupts people when the conversation gets interesting. You’d rather be someone who facilitates that conversation, ideally by hosting the party and creating the environment in which that conversation occurs.

This reality points to the need for a content strategy. By convening, feeding and facilitating an industry-focused conversation, organizations draw their audience closer. A well-executed content strategy has the power to establish a brand position, create a more informed customer-base and lead to the most important aspect of any potential relationship in this day and age – trust.