Yes, I had to start this column with the visuals above — because I’ll be talking about how images and videos are replacing text  as digital’s primary communications “language”.

Look at any major website, or tap into your mobile device, and that conclusion becomes obvious. Billions of photos are being shared daily, slide shows are dominating entertainment and sports sites, and striking images seem to be anchoring all content.

While publishers have embraced the maxim that “photos speak louder than words,” advertisers are now racing to catch up. Here are some of the methods they can use:

  • Add messages to user-generated:


Snapchat’s new Sponsored Lens format allows advertisers to add animated ads to consumers’ selfies. 20th Century Fox debuted this tool recently with ads for The Peanuts Movie.

  • Use promoted posts on social media networks:

Promoted tweets are naturally text-heavy, but a format like Pinterest’s Promoted Pins allows advertisers to combine images and soft call-to-action messages with audience targeting.

  • Turn ads into slide shows:

  • Facebook and Instagram call these Carousel ads, where users can scroll across several images and corresponding links.

Sure, advertisers can replace boring banner ads with more attention-getting images and gimmicks. And they can experiment with new social media methods. But they can also try another technique that latches on to all those publisher-provided visuals that are already grabbing consumer attention:

  • Place in-image overlays over photos selected by their content.image02

The secret lies in the keywords included in the metadata attached to every image across all platforms. Brands can choose to have their ads run over the hot photos of trending movie and TV celebrities, sports stars, musical acts, you name it. This contextual content gets combined with real-time, programmatic buying to transport tried-and-true ad targeting techniques into today’s heavily visual environment.

How does this work in action? In the above example from earlier this year, Bulgari tied-in to the latest gossip with Mad Men star January Jones.  But let’s say you want to sell a leading tennis racket brand to millennial sports enthusiasts. One of the top tennis pros is currently playing with your racket in a major tournament. You can reach your target demographic audience with ad messages placed over news photos from yesterday’s match.

For advertisers, this technique results in more click-throughs and conversions, because they’re reaching target audiences within today’s prime high-engagement zone. Publishers are already running all these photos, so they’re getting incremental advertising revenue with little effort. All they have to do is make sure their image metadata is totally up to date and accurate, and the ads should come in.

It may seem like quite a transformation to communicate with pictures rather than text. But it’s really nothing new. Just ask a caveman.image00


Photo by angelocesare

Author: Dennis Clerke

Dennis leads the content-monetization business at NetSeer, helping publishers derive greater revenue and user engagement from display and enhanced search. As an executive, advisor and entrepreneur, Dennis has made a major impact on growth at many early-stage and young tech companies in his career. He was CEO at two venture-backed companies that made successful exits – Aligent Software and Cardiff Software – and has an uncanny ability to identify and establish long, rewarding partner relationships. Previous roles included managing director of DaggerBoard Advisors, and EVP of Software Equity Group. He holds an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurial business from UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Business and a BA in engineering from Boston University. Dennis is a sailing aficionado – and has some very entertaining stories to prove it.


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