As a very proud yet cautious South African citizen, this blog, specifically titled, “Online Advertising”, sits a bit uneasy with me and, honestly, sounds a bit “scammy”. Personally, I feel that this term should be made obsolete if we as an industry are to have any hope of shaking off the image of a Big Brother-like machine, churning out endless streams of consumerist mind wash.

Unfortunately, a lot of this is due to the constantly-evolving digital world we live in, proudly sponsored by the ‘World Wide Web’.

Don’t get me wrong, without the Internet and ‘WWW’, I would not have a career, let alone the knowledge and skills I have acquired over the last few years. However, it’s important to recognise that there’s a fragile balance at play in the vastness of the online landscape, between content creation and consumption. 

One extremely crucial element of the digital age we are in is the need to understand the actual building blocks that have created this virtual world and online advertising.

Human beings, technology and ongoing developments in AI have all contributed to the current digital world, influenced by countless individuals’ and groups’ ideas, innovations, beliefs, biases and objectives. This immediately makes for an imperfect, unstable and definitely uncertain eco-system in which we all have to co-exist. The impact and future for man-kind is truly uncertain and has an unmeasurable potential to influence on the planet as we know it, as well as every single human being on it.  

The emphasis on power and influence in the world, in the context of online advertising, is directly connected to something we do not always acknowledge or even choose to care about, as reflected in our human nature: we are deeply influenced in our daily activities by the websites, games, blogs, social media, etc., which are being effortlessly embedded into our lives, driving us to react, engage, and take physical action.

We are so easily influenced that trust and safety have become a major factor in everything we do online. Sometimes, perceptions can be altered by simply rephrasing or changing the context of industry jargon, and this can have profound implications, depending on who’s writing the script. Of course, these same tools will also assist some of the good guys left in the marketing industry. Those like me, who choose to market with ethically sound intent. This alone will help us to drive a better understanding of the online landscape, and therefore to sell our unique skills, businesses, and/or the impression of an industry as a whole.

One of the many skills I have been lucky to obtain in this industry and get to put into practice almost every single day is loosely referred to as “contextual marketing”. This entails strategic and tailored layouts of wording and messaging in limited spaces and time intervals. Sometimes, it’s as simple as an enticing headline or a clear call to action, but there is much more to this, of course. These are ultimately required to capture a user’s attention, in what has now been officially coined a “micro moment”, thanks to technology and smart devices. But beyond this point, it’s all about the details and the significant part they play to keeping the user engaged and motivating them to take further action.

All I’m saying is that, as an online marketer myself, we need to package and present content in the most relevant way, ultimately focusing on the user and their user experience [UX]. Websites, apps, blogs, and even ads, all factor in user experience, which entails a large amount of fine detail. Colours, buttons, logos, symbols and even the layouts of each of these, are based entirely on past and current human behavior.

In short, there is a great deal more to the art of marketing services, products and businesses online, and I feel that a more appropriate title is needed. Branding, public image, security, authenticity, and user experience all work together to create the overall impressions we humans have of everything around us. I firmly believe that, in order for anyone to make a career or a successful business out of this rapidly-growing industry, the term “online advertising” needs to be laid to rest.

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