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The case for in-image advertising



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September 30, 2015 | 5 min read

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Content is king.

This old saying carries more weight now than ever before. Today, however, the true king of content is images. The three fastest-growing social platforms, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, are image-based. Sites like Buzzfeed are thriving on gifs and picture lists. Even Facebook has optimised its newsfeed to be image-centric.

The sheer volume of content – especially images – presents both a challenge and an opportunity for digital advertisers. The challenge is fairly obvious: attention is hard to garner and maintain. With the average internet user’s attention span less than that of a goldfish, getting a person to stop long enough to process an ad and make a decision to engage with it is difficult – not to mention the fact that this content super-saturation is driving users towards increasing intolerance of ads.

This challenge, however, marks an opportunity to marry the image-centric nature of the visual web with relevant and captivating ad experiences. In-image advertising uses data about the image, its tags, and the surrounding content to match images with ads that are contextually relevant. It solves a host of challenges for advertisers, publishers and customers.

For advertisers, in-image advertising ensures that users actually see their ads. Eye tracking studies have shown that users focus more energy and attention on images than anything else, and today’s savvy digital customer has learned how to tune out ads as they run along the rail of other content. By bringing the ads into image content, an advertiser can trust they will be seen because those images are the most captivating part of the site to begin with.

For publishers, putting ads within images can help build a relationship with the customer built on trust. In order to maintain the costs of delivering their content for free, many publishers have had to structure their sites in a way that makes it more likely that users will see the ads on them. Whether it be video ads that begin automatically or more standard pre-roll ads, people are growing increasingly frustrated over what they perceive to be obnoxious ads that are interrupting their customer experience. In-image ads, on the other hand, don’t disrupt the content; they complement it. By putting a small, aesthetically pleasing and relevant ad within an image, publishers can provide a seamless advertising experience that will show customers that they are trying to add value to the customer’s experience, not take away from it.

For customers, bringing ads into images will provide the ideal browsing experience. From a user standpoint, a perfect world is one without digital ads. In-image ads allow for publishers to get as close to that experience as possible by weaving the ads into the content in a way that allows for a truly native experience. At the same time, these ads aren’t trying to trick users into thinking they are purely content, a practice that has frustrated users for some time. Publishers won’t need to have ads encroaching on content to the point of choking the flow of their site, and customers will be able to browse their favorite sites without feeling like they are walking down a narrow street with salesmen on either side pitching their wares.

The case for in-image advertising is a strong one. In today’s age of increased ad blocking, banner blindness and short attention spans, advertisers, brands and publishers all need a way to catch customers’ eyes and hold their focus with ads that enhance the entire online experience without taking away from the content. What better way to do that than to combine what consumers love – images – with what brands rely heavily on – advertising?

As the inventor of in-image advertising, GumGum is the digital marketing platform for the visual web.

John Donovan, VP, UK Sales, GumGum

Tel: 07787 414423



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GumGum is a contextual-first global advertising technology company that captures people’s attention, without the use of personal data. We believe that a digital advertising ecosystem based on understanding a consumer’s active frame of mind rather than behavior builds a more equitable and safer future for consumers, publishers and advertisers alike. Founded in 2008, GumGum is headquartered in Santa Monica, California and operates in 19 markets worldwide. For more information, visit

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