As a marketer, what do you dream of achieving when you place an ad? How about producing something that people not only want to read, but enjoy and share? And that provokes an emotional response?
Advertising, love it or hate it, is big business and remains a key marketing channel for businesses the world over. But with the popularity of ‘native advertising’ on the increase, things just got a lot more interesting.
If you’re investing in creating and running an ad, then you’ll want to ensure it leaves a lasting impression. What brands are now up against is the age of adblocking, where people are increasingly sales’ savvy. They will opt out, block, filter and ignore ads, and even buy in software to avoid them. What this all means is that getting through to a target audience can prove difficult.
In response, the nature and format of advertising has evolved. Not only to battle this ad aversion but developing in line with the growth of the web, social media and the devices people are now using to access them. Native advertising is one such innovation and offers a way to reach an audience by hitting them with content that they’ll want to see and find of value.
Until a few years ago the idea of native advertising didn’t even exist, but since the phrase was first coined in 2012 its popularity has soared. In the last year it has really come into its own and as a concept is here to stay.
It is basically paying to have content appear – for example on a news or entertainment website – where the ad closely matches the style, look, type and quality of content that the site usually runs. That means it will normally take the form of an article and be content-based. It will be informative, interesting and targeted exactly to its audience. Importantly, it won’t disrupt and get in the way of how people would usually use the site. It will sit within the natural ‘flow’ of content.
As it’s paid for space, even if it looks just like any other article, it will be marked up so readers know it has been paid for. But this can be done in all sort of ways that are a little less direct than being labelled up ‘Advertisement’. For example, it may be marked as ‘sponsored’, ‘featured partner’ or ‘promoted’.
The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “native advertising doesn’t disrupt the user experience and offers helpful information in a format similar to the other content on the site so users engage with it more than they would with, say, a banner ad. (This is good for advertisers, and if the content is truly useful, good for consumers.) In very simple terms, native advertising is one way content marketers can distribute their content.”
Native advertising versus advertorials
Now you may be thinking it sounds like an advertorial and they have been used by marketers for years. But while they may appear to share many of the same attributes at first glance, native advertising is a far more modern form of advertorial that’s more user-friendly and less of an infomercial.
Both types aren’t straight forward ads in the sense of saying “buy me now” but rather use storytelling to get the marketing message across. Whereas an advertorial would traditionally be more obviously pushing a product or service, native advertising is softer and all about the user experience.
As an example – in the digital world, native advertising may be an online article, or even images or videos, which doesn’t directly promote the company’s products or services. The only plug may be the inclusion of a simple link.
Why do it?
If the brand plugs are so limited, is it really worth doing? The answer is a big, fat yes. And your options for placing them are growing too, as the publishers behind websites and social media sites also see the benefit, in both the extra revenue it can generate and with the sharable nature of the content helping to drive up readership figures.
Here are just a few of the reasons that native advertising is so great for brands:
- It can help you engage with and build an audience
- It offers high visibility
- It’s very sharable so can have an even further reach
- It works really well on mobile devices as well as other devices
- It can be used to build and expand your database
- It can work much more successfully than other forms of online advertising, for example banner ads which have a low click-through rate that continues to decline
- It can be used as part of a content marketing strategy as a way to distribute content
Who is doing it?
If you think you haven’t seen many of these types of ad yet, then think again. For example, are you one of the millions of people reading content on the BuzzFeed website? According to the Native Advertising Institute, the site is powered by native advertising revenues. Banner and display ads have been ditched in preference for the medium. And business for the website is well and truly booming.
The quality of the ads is high. According to the Institute that’s because ads on the site fall strongly in line with BuzzFeed’s standard editorial content. They look like any other article on the site and any direct product plugs are a ‘natural fit’ that has no effect on the entertainment value of the content.
For more examples of native ads in action, check out these 9 examples.
What do you need to do to get it right?
There are some pointers to follow if you’re going to be successful at native advertising. Not least of which is remembering it isn’t the place to be going all out on plugging your brand and company. Here’s what you need to think about:
- You need to know your audience really well and what will interest them
- You need to be providing real value to the reader
- It must fit perfectly with the existing content on the site you want to appear on
- It mustn’t promote directly your brand or service, if at all
- It needs to work across all formats, so look just as good on a mobile as a laptop
As with any marketing you do, you also need to be monitoring and analysing its success, so you can adjust and repeat the exercise even more effectively.
Figures released by Adyoulike estimate the value of native advertising worldwide will almost double over the next three years. So if native advertising isn’t on your marketing radar, it probably should be. As websites see the potential to generate more cash, and brands see the value of this type of ad for engagement, it’s only going to get bigger and better.