04/02/2014 01:29 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2014

After Real Time Advertising

Oreo's "Dunk in the Dark" post during the 2012 Super Bowl clearly demonstrated the impact of creating responsive content during existing conversations. Now, a year after "Real Time" entered the lexicon, has the promise of an always on content engine met up with the expectations?

To skip my diatribe and see a nifty presentation, click here.

What Is Real Time Advertising?

Content Marketing is the ongoing conversation brands have with their community using relevant and consistent content. If you look at your newsfeed you'll see a bunch of square or rectangle graphics with copy that look a little like advertisements. That's content marketing. Real Time Advertising is a subset of content marketing that injects content into ongoing online conversations. So instead of just putting out an ad during the Oscars, brands will develop responsive content to something that happened during the event. Take a look at some good examples of Real Time Advertising here. Sounds great, right?

The Devolution

The rise of Real Time Advertising created a virtual content arms race as brands developed complex internal and external resources to produce more and more content to attract attention. This often meant building elaborate "war rooms" flush with multiple screens showing real-time information and recent college grads scouring the internets for potential content opportunities. But like any country that builds their military infrastructure, you've got to feed the beast. Brands began developing content for content's sake, even if it wasn't relevant for their audience. Cover Girl created confusing #Nailgaiting content for the SuperBowl, Delta tweeted a baffling connection between their planes and the Beatles, and Clorox made an inextricable connection between American Hustle and "hustling" kids out the door. In the rush to remain relevant, brands forgot the main reason why Real Time Advertising worked in the first place, to add value to their community. People never wanted novel ways brands could crowbar their products into the news cycle, they wanted relevant, entertaining content.

What began as a unique way for brands to join existing conversations devolved into marketers talking to themselves and trying to force their products into moments where they didn't belong.

What's Next

The next phase of search algorithms will begin to add context to searches. They'll begin to understand what people are looking for instead of relying on strict search strings to find results. The next phase of advertising will follow a similar model, looking at context and personalization to make connections with an audience. Let's call this next evolution Contextual Advertising. Here's what I mean. In a traditional car advertisement we would make a print or TV commercial that promoted a specific quality of the car (it's fast) or would play up an emotional appeal (you'll feel younger). Real Time Advertising would span these quantitative and emotional appeals across a series of lightweight content, some of which would be tied to ongoing events. Contextual Advertising would analyze your social feed and notice when you post on Twitter that your car broke down and send a customized post about how our car is the most reliable on the market. Here's a few ways Contextual Advertising will change how we look at content.

Context Aware

Content will be smarter about the world around you. Using an API from will let companies know how hot it is in your city. Ninety-seven degrees in LA? Coke will send you a message about how good it would feel to be drinking soda. Traffic jam on the highway? Get a personalized content suggestions about a new podcast you can listen to while you wait. Tapping into datasources will give advertisers the ability to craft content that recognizes the unique world around you.


Using data doesn't just mean being able to quickly react to what's happening, it also means being able to predict choices consumers will make in the future. Facebook recently announced they were able to accurately predict when users were about to break up with their significant other. Imagine if a company like Tinder were able to use the same predictive data to send you pictures of single people in your area right before you were about to break up. Using large data sets, advertisers will be able to build predictive models that anticipate user behaviors and intercept those users with tailored content.

Location Aware

Location is rapidly becoming a growing part of the marketing mix. Everything from what city you live in down to what stores you check into can be utilized to create customized content. Imagine checking into a clothing store on Facebook or Foursquare and receiving a personalized promoted content piece in your news stream that served up a coupon on your favorite pair of jeans.

Inventory Aware

Smart inventories will better link point of service to the warehouse giving advertisers up-to-date information around top selling products, low inventory items and how fast a customer would be able to receive a product. You can imagine releasing pre-developed content when an inventory trigger tells you that a specific product is selling more than normal or releasing a sale-item content piece when you need to eliminate excess inventory.

Contextual Advertising won't replace the need for a robust content marketing program that use Real Time moments but it will provide another avenue for advertisers to create highly targeted content that speaks to their community in ways that Real Time never has.