Advertisers Aren’t Buying Ads They’re Buying Engagement

I had the pleasure of spending an hour this morning with Melissa Durfee Davis ( at DNA Seattle, they’re the good people who brought us the Pemco Northwest Profile campaign amongst others. We covered a lot of ground ranging from media trends to the Community Magazine Network but one interesting thing she brought up is that advertisers don’t want to buy ads, they want to buy engagement.

This isn’t really a revelation. Employers don’t buy their employees time, they buy the results that come from it. Consumers don’t buy features, they buy benefits. Advertisers, like the rest of us, want results. So, that begs the question, what is a publisher to do? It’s a painful question because it’s much easier to sell an ad than it is to be creative. But it’s also an opportunity. When you can provide the vehicle for advertisers to connect with the people they’re trying to reach, and conversely for a consumer to find the right product or service, you’ve just done something special.

We’re working with publishers in our network to find creative solutions to these challenges and ensure all of our members are equipped to take advantage of their unique opportunities, and of course make those opportunities available to larger advertisers as well as local ones. Whether it’s providing adveritsers with a ‘seat at the table’ at local events or creating content tie-ins that improve the experience for your readers the opportunities are out there. If social media is showing us anything it’s that advertising is become a conversation, albeit not always a real-time one, and publishers should seek ways to involve consumers in that conversation with contest, surveys, recommendations, feedback, etc.

Our tag line is “Building Community Through Conversation” and it provides a guiding light when we’re trying to decide which path is best. I encourage you to create something similiar for your business and you’ll find yourself thinking not about selling ads but finding ways to sell engagement.

This was originally posted on the Community Magazine Network blog at


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