Through the Spyglass


What Is Native Advertising and Should Your Company Use It?

The definition of native advertising varies depending on who you ask. But essentially, it is content, perhaps an article or a video, that lives on a publisher's platform (website, magazine, etc.), and is branded or sponsored by a brand, but fits seamlessly with the publisher's content (hence "native"). It offers value or is of interest to the publisher's audience.

Native advertising is not new. It's been around since before the Internet. But there is renewed interested around the concept resulting from a shift away from traditional online advertising. Marketers are beginning to move funds from display advertising and paid search into native advertising. Why would they do this?

In an eMarketer article, GE's global head of media strategy, Jason Hill, explained, “Traditional digital advertising has become wallpaper. It doesn't improve anyone's experience on a site, and readers, myself included, pretty much look past it…Brands that have a strong point of view and great partners to help them express it can enjoy massive engagement [with native].”

Image Credit: Rob Gallop Image Credit: Rob Gallop

When was the last time you appreciated an advertisement online? Perhaps you've clicked on some and made a purchase, but do you remember the ad and did you forward it to a friend? Native advertising allows brands to connect with audiences in a way that makes them take notice and engage. It is more likely to become viral than other types of advertising. Just as you might send a friend an article from your favorite publisher, so you might also send a friend an article that is sponsored by a brand if the content is useful to you.

But native advertising isn't cheap. Getting publishers to include your content amongst their own can be costly. So it's important for brands to develop relationships with publishers, understand what they're looking for, and plan ahead. Brands must develop strategies for effective native advertising campaigns. Here are four tips to move you in the right direction:

1. Know your audience.

Who is visiting your website? What are the demographics of your current audience? And who do you want your audience to be if it's different than your current audience? Every marketer should have buyer personas, or fictitious representations of their target market. Develop your content as if you were writing to these fictitious individuals. And continually evaluate your content to see what's resonating with your audience and what isn't.

2. Know the audience of popular publishers.

If you want to pursue native advertising, then you must research publishers. What popular publishers (or publishers with large audiences) are reaching your target market? Would a partnership with them suit your brand? What publishers are open to partnering with you and what fits within your budget?

3. Know what content is appealing on those publishing platforms.

Once you've identified publishers to partner with, research their content. Which formats work well—videos, quizzes, articles, etc.? What kind of content is most likely to generate the results that you want, such as engagement, website visits, or increased fans on social media?

4. Have a measurement plan in place.

Before you publish that excellent piece of content, make sure you know how to measure its effectiveness. If engagement is your goal, how will you evaluate the engagement that results from the article and what is your criteria for an effective level of engagement? Are you looking to achieve a certain number of comments, likes, or shares? If you want to achieve brand lift, have you considered incorporating hashtags or a slogan to encourage specific social comments and later be able to filter results?

These are just a few ideas to get you started with native advertising. Ultimately, remember to focus on the customers and what is valuable to them.