The internet ushered in an era of unprecedented information exchange. Suddenly, anyone with an idea could get attention — for free. Now, this meant that companies, products, and media platforms all multiplied. 

Information was everywhere. So choices felt pretty limitless — then something interesting happened. 

People suddenly had access to infinite content. But, over time, that actually became a bit of a hassle. Or, at least, a lot to sift through. As a result, rising technologies helped streamline this content.

Today, search engines have dramatically improved in their ability to determine user intent and select the correct websites, articles, and answers accordingly. Keyword and link stuffing no longer guarantee rankings or getting in front of your ideal audience.   

Prefer listening over reading? Check out the audio recording of this blog post below:



Time for Change

Consequentially, content creators have needed to pivot. They've needed to adopt strategies like the topic cluster methodology and use tools like content strategy in HubSpot to ensure they're building and distributing helpful and relevant content.

Similarly, the internet suddenly gave people access to seemingly endless options. Predictably, over time this also became a hassle. So, technology helped refine those options. 

Have you recently used a voice assistant like Alexa or Siri? Bought Amazon's Choice of a product? 

Everyone kept needing to enter their information. And you can imagine, over time, this too became a hassle. Different types of technology — from user-friendly chat bots to facial recognition — is taking care of that, too.

When looked at disparately, these might appear to be a couple B2C examples, but when looked at side by side, the message becomes clear: Technology is changing the way people interact with content, make choices, and communicate with each other.

The inbound of today looks very different from the tools and strategies once used over a decade ago. 

So what does this mean for advertising? Let's explore.  


Advertising Before Inbound

In the pre-internet era, advertising meant buying billboards or "spots" on various forms of mass media. This type of advertising shared a couple of characteristics, to name a few: 

  • Expensive: They were especially pricey for small or medium-sized businesses.
  • Not targeted: While you paid for the ad, it would only be relevant to a percentage of the viewers that would see it.
  • Interruptive: They usually interrupted consumers from their experience, whether that was a magazine, newspaper, etc. 

Early online advertising struggled with these same problems.

Digital ads were interruptive and often put in front of shoppers with little to no context. As these ads were focused on mass audiences, businesses using them often employed bait and switch tactics or were otherwise focused on getting online shoppers to buy a service or product at any means necessary.

These practices naturally put advertising at odds with inbound upon its inception in 2006. 

That's when Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah, and the group of early HubSpotters created the first iteration of the inbound marketing methodology. The stages were:

  • Get found
  • Convert
  • Analyze

The new marketing approach focused on drawing people to your company through helpful and relevant content. Rather than marketers pushing their message out far and wide hoping that it resonates, inbound brought the relationship with customers to the front and center.

And advertising, at least for a time, had no business there. 


Advertising With Inbound

The internet has changed since 2006.

Now, a key set of companies (such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon) largely controls the places the majority of people spend most of their time online. These companies have won our time by providing exceptional value, convenience, and experience.

At the same time, the continuous stream of users also gave them the opportunity to earn money from businesses and content creators through advertising.

So what’s different between the ads of yesteryear and the ads seen on these platforms today?

Today’s platforms have evolved to solve for the individual user experience — individual people can see different things and have totally different experiences in the exact same place. The way they surface ads works similarly.

Players such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Linkedin have developed the means to surface ads that are appropriate and interesting to unique segments of their users. This is a key shift in advertising because it fundamentally changes the nature of advertising.

Ads can be helpful. Ads can be relevant. Ads can be inbound.

Which means that ads in 2018 are a completely different story than ads in 2006 or prior. Before, ads solved for exposure — the need of the marketer to have the loudest voice in the room.

Fast-forward to 2018 (and beyond?). Ads can now help solve for the customer. New technology has given marketers a way to provide a well-targeted, engaging, and non-interruptive experience.

So, where do you start? With such conflicting narratives, varying best practices, and different platforms to juggle, it can be difficult to know up from down when it comes to advertising.   


Making an Impression Series

That's what this series is all about. Let's talk logistics. 

  • When: Fortnightly (no, not like the video game)
  • Where: The HubSpot Academy User Blog. Make sure you're subscribed!
  • Why: To learn advertising in the age of inbound
  • Who: This story will be told by many different people, views, and voices, but I will be your consistent narrator. 
  • How: How can you be involved? Tweet us your questions and feedback using #makinganimpression.

Telling the story of digital advertising is going to be all about team work. This introduction has barely scratched the surface. Along the way, please share your thoughts, experiences, and feedback throughout the series. 

  • How have you used advertising in your business? 
  • What challenges do you face creating, implementing, and managing your ads?
  • How are you currently determining ad spend? 


Let's Have a Conversation

Here's how you can get involved and share this story: 

  • Twitter: Tweet us @HubSpotAcademy or through the #makinganimpression hashtag.
  • SoundCloud: Coming soon!   
  • HubSpot CommunityConnect about the series here

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Originally published Nov 8, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated January 07 2019