It’s the latest buzzword in marketing, but does everyone who uses it know what they mean when they say “native marketing”?
Like “viral”, native advertising is a phrase with the potential to be misused so we thought we’d try to clear a few things up a little and give you an explanation as to what native is and why it matters to you.
What is it?
Native advertising is content delivered to people in a way that doesn’t interrupt their experience on the site on which it is delivered. It is contextual and relevant and adds value to people – whether that’s informational, educational, humorous or access to something they’d normally not have.
Simply put, it’s content that looks like the rest of the site and doesn’t stand out, except maybe to have a callout that identifies it as sponsored. The image below clearly shows how content that is paid for by an advertiser sits into the homepage of popular content site Buzzfeed
Why is it so powerful?
The biggest advantage to native is that people are more likely to notice it and view the content when it fits in with the experience that they are used to on a site. Because it sits “in stream” or within the same design context as the rest of the site that it’s delivered on, people are more likely to notice it and engage with it.
Twitter and Facebook are great examples of native ads being shown instream.
— Bank of Ireland (@bankofireland) July 9, 2014
Looking at the above example you can see that the tweet looks like a normal tweet, and it’s served up in people’s timelines exactly the same way as all the other tweets are served. The only real difference is that the advertiser, in this case Bank of Ireland, has paid to have it show up in the feed of people who aren’t necessarily following them.
Overall the goal is to make the advertisement as unobtrusive as possible, which means it’s less disruptive to the users experience. Unless you’ve been asleep at every meeting for the last five years you’ll know that this is a good thing. Advertising has changed massively in response to changing behaviours and pull, or permission based marketing is where it’s at currently.
And this is where native advertising comes in. With native, you are talking to people in a way that they expect on that particular site. You’re not interrupting their experience. On the other hand it does mean that you have to up your game in terms of the content that you produce.
People’s patience with poor content or something that is obviously an ad/pr job is non-existent. Studies show 25% of people abandon a page that takes 4 seconds to load so when you’re creating content keep that in mind. People are used to getting good content quickly and if your content isn’t up to scratch, then you can expect people to turn off and find something else to read or view.
If done correctly you’ll be producing advertising that is contextually relevant and effective. You’ll be driving traffic to your site or creating more brand awareness or whatever your campaign goal is.
Native can take many forms. Content marketing, a phrase we should all be aware of by now, is a form of native advertising. The breadth of channels on which to seed content is vast. When your options include articles, video, images and podcasts then it’s easy to see why native advertising has become so massively popular in the industry.
One of the biggest advantages of native is that people view it as more credible. If you’re producing quality content for your campaign then you’re going to increase your exposure as people are more inclined to click. To do that though you need to produce quality content.
So your goal should be to deliver great content that is engaging, relevant to the audience and adds value to their interactions with the host site by being contextually relevant. If you’re doing this then the rewards will come in the form of credibility with people.
If you execute it poorly it will lead to people feeling put off by your content and the publishers can also expect to feel a bit of backlash too. Working with the publishers to create the best content for their site is recommended. They are the ones who know their audience and they can help you create content that will resonate with them and get the best results.
A great example of how not to do native came from the Church of Scientology last year when they produced some content with The Atlantic. The piece, which was an article, was produced solely by the team at the Church of Scientology and the editorial Team from the Atlantic left them to their devices.
The end result was an article that went live on The Atlantic which read more like a press release than a reasoned or contextually based article. Readers let The Atlantic know their feelings on the piece and eventually the piece had to be pulled from the site. It even led to a full review of The Atlantic’s policies on native content.
The channels through which we deliver our content and advertising notice changes in behaviour before agencies and clients do, which means they are acutely aware of the shifts in people’s behaviour.
For them delivering content in this way can lead to higher engagement and this means more revenue. The higher the engagement the more they can charge for a campaign, so you need to be aware of this when you embark on a campaign that has a native element.
Campaigns built around content are also much easier to deliver in stream as sites and content delivery, for the most part, work on mobile through mobile sites and apps. It is much easier for publishers therefore to serve the content over say a display ad which requires different formats for desktops and mobile.
Internationally, publishers like Buzzfeed have been working with brands to create brand content which they then serve in their much loved timeline. Working with companies like The Economist, they have produced their famous lists which then link back to the brand’s own site and it is this model that brands should be looking to work with publishers on.
And what about Ireland?
Sites like balls.ie, thejournal.ie and Joe.ie are all sites dedicated to the delivery of content meaning that there are plenty of opportunities for brands in Ireland to get on the native train.
In fact we found a very recent example on joe.ie. The new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (DotPotA anyone?) movie is premiering this week in Ireland and if you happened to visit joe.ie last week you may have seen an article about Joe’s favourite movie monkeys.
Clicking on it would’ve taken you to a story that was created by the Joe team to sit within a roadblock of that page. So the story has been delivered on the homepage during the week the new movie is launching and works in tandem with all the other advertising that people have been subjected to.
What does the future hold?
Native isn’t going to go away. The method by which we all consume information has changed and the need to be relevant has never been stronger. The growth of practices like dual screening means that you, as a brand, will be trying to attract people to your product or service on a number of different fronts at the same time.
Whatever plans you have for an integrated campaign now in the near future, you should at least be considering your options in this area to see where the value might be and what results you could expect to gain from running some native advertising.
If you do decide to take the plunge then start sensibly and look for a good opportunity that fits with your brand and your target market. Work with your agencies, including your media company to craft the right content for the publishers market and track your results.