You’re already seeing it in action, even if you are not fully aware of it. Sponsored stories on Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter and other ‘branded’ or ‘promoted’ content on websites are manifestations of native advertising. They enable brands to advertise their sponsored content by blending in with the content that consumers chase.
Native advertising is when sponsored content is shown to the user in the context of their online experience. Although becoming an industry buzzword, it has been around for a while.
In the infancy of advertising, customers trusted the few prominent players and bought into their ads. But today, due to the excessive invasion of ads into all forms of media, users have learnt to recognise ads for what they are – content that is meant to persuade users to buy their brands. The brains of content consumers naturally tune out of these ads and into the content they actually need.
Native advertising is expected to counter this “emotional unsubscription” from users. It is meant to seamlessly reach users alongside the content that they are searching for.
Sharethrough has a clever infographic that tracks the history of native advertising, from the coining of the phrase to the latest mentions in the media.
Brand awareness is the primary objective of native advertising. The content in the advertisements is typically educational in nature and aimed at providing value to the audience.
In the traditional sales funnel, awareness is the first step prior to lead generation – the business has to find a way to reach the audience for them to be converted into leads later. Native advertising accomplishes this in a natural way, by placing ads alongside the content that consumers normally chase.
Some of the popular examples of native advertising are:
Many other online magazines and publishing companies run sponsored articles alongside their editorial content. Some of them have stood out for their quality and honesty like The New York Times article about women in prison which was really a well placed and informative native ad by Netflix for its TV show Orange is the New Black.
On the other hand, there are instances when native advertisements have gained notoriety for their lack of relevance, like the sponsored article by the Church of Scientology in The Atlantic.
With any new form of advertisement, the trick is to learn from the good examples and avoid the mistakes that became universally panned. Here are some patterns that have emerged from the successful cases.
The content should not be out of place in the channel you use. The idea is to draw the consumers’ attention to your ad seamlessly from other content they are interested in.
Each media channel has its own style of content. Facebook posts usually work best with accompanying images whereas tweets have to follow the 140-character limit.
As for advertising in other online magazines, work with their content teams to match their form. For instance, image galleries and lists work for Buzzfeed, while long-form articles with a couple of images blend in with online magazine content.
Each channel will also have its own labelling phrase like “Promoted”, “Sponsored by” or “You might also like”. Follow these labels to clearly distinguish your posts as ads.
This might seem obvious. But there have been instances where ads showed up next to related content, only to lead users to completely unrelated sites.
Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute described his frustration at clicking on a sponsored post about basketball and ending up at spam content about dietary supplements. Examples like these are not only dishonest, but will backfire on your business.
Last but not least, the overall aim of the ads should be awareness. No one is going to buy your product just because they saw the ad next to content they like. Native ads must influence purchasing behaviour long before the actual purchase is made.
By blending in with environments where the audience spends most of their time, native ads encourage consumers to remember brand names. This also helps spread brand presence even further via word of mouth.
There is a lot of media attention on native advertising these days. It was one of the hot topics discussed in the Advertising Week in New York last month and was even part of a segment in John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight. Marketers will have to keep monitoring the developments to see what works and avoid the don’ts.
How would you go about using native advertisement for your business? Let us know in the comments below.
Read more: interactive content marketing solutions from GetIT Comms.