It’s easy to look at complicated things in black and white.
Take Darth Vader, for example. Darth is a major bad guy -- no way around it. But he didn’t start off that way.
Anakin Skywalker was a good kid with a lot of potential. In the right situation, he could have gone on to become a hero and represent the light side. And he actually does have a glimmer of "good" towards the end of the series. At the very end, Darth saves Luke from certain death at the hands of the Emperor. He’s a complicated character with the potential for both good and bad.
Advertising is the same way. We used to think that if you bought an ad, you were automatically irritating your customers. But online advertising has been changing and things have gotten more complicated.
There are still a ton of bad ads, but we’re also seeing a new breed of ads. Ads that have the potential to benefit people. Ads that help customers find the information they are looking for. Ads that amplify great content and surface it to the people interested in that topic. Ads that are ... kinda inboundy.
Truthfully, we didn’t stumble on this observation ourselves -- our customers had to point it out to us.
How Our Customers Convinced Us Advertising Isn't All Bad
Turns out, 53% of our customers use ads -- and they're using them to augment their inbound activities. Using search and social ads, they’ve been able to effectively target a qualified audience with the right content.
Our customers taught us a very important point: It’s the content, not the format, stupid. When ads become good content, they're contributing to -- not detracting from -- a robust inbound marketing strategy.
Five years ago, this same principle didn't apply. Pretty much all online ads were terrible. The display ad was "the cutting edge." Most ads were interruptive and untargeted.
Today, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have changed the game. They’ve innovated with choice-based formats, blurred the lines with native ads, and created video and mobile ads that people actually enjoy and find useful.
These companies also reward ads that help their users. Both LinkedIn and Google, for example, have a quality or relevance score. This metric makes sure that the highest quality content is matched with the most relevant user. Which means that advertisers who create remarkable content, relevant landing pages, and helpful ads can pay less and rank higher than those who don’t.
We’ve also seen how helpful and powerful relevant ads can be first-hand. With lead generation as our goal, we took some of our own best performing content and promoted it to a valuable new audience through LinkedIn. We knew this content was already proven to drive leads, but by providing it to a new and relevant professional audience on LinkedIn, we drove 400% more leads within our target audience than lead generation efforts on other platforms. By getting our content into the hands of more people who needed it, we were able to generate qualified leads at a cost-per-lead that made sense for our business.
Why? It’s too hard and expensive for marketers to get good enough with ads to consistently make money with them. The software is intimidating, the learning curve is steep, and determining ROI is murky at best.
Seeing all of this combined, we decided to get over ourselves and help our customers with ads.
That’s why we created the HubSpot Ads Add-On. No, it’s not a prank. We want to make sure that more of the ads out there are quality ones. And we want to help more marketers get better results with the time, effort, and money they're spending on ads.
To start, we're proud to partner with two proven leaders in ads: LinkedIn and Google. These partners allow our customers to reach valuable audiences and engage with them in an inbound way. Take LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, for instance. With the HubSpot Ads Add-On, customers will be able to place helpful, relevant posts right within users' feeds -- no interruption necessary.
So, in short, we're here, listening to our customers and embracing the grey. With the right mindset, strategy, and tools in place, advertising doesn't have to be interruptive and annoying.
It won't be easy to change the advertising industry for the better. But it wasn’t easy for Darth Vader to betray his master and save Luke from the Emperor either.
Originally published Sep 23, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017