Native advertising is being touted as a new and innovative format, but it just might be an old strategy, transformed by a new digital frontier.
In 2014, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recognised native ads as a new form of advertising. As an alternative to display; it’s seen to be the fastest-growing advertising segment, experiencing 35 per cent growth between 2017 and 2018. Defined as paid advertising or sponsored content where the ad matches the form, feel, function, and quality of the content of the media where it appears, native advertising is hardly a new phenomenon. In 1915, Cadillac came out with a sponsored article, there was no mention of the brand in the text, but it talked about the superior man who leads the pack and strives for greatness. Soap operas broadcast on the radio and television, got their name as they were sponsored and funded mainly by consumer brands like P&G to market their soaps.
In the digital era, these native ads are found everywhere from social media feeds, websites, e-commerce sites, music and video apps. Native advertising is gaining popularity because of its undisruptive nature that exposes the reader to advertising content without putting them off. It is becoming a very crucial subset of content marketing to include any piece of content, be it audio, video, infographic or stories, which can be effectively and efficiently placed on platforms. Ekin Ozenci, Mobile Product Specialist at Google says, “Native is important to Google because we think native advertising will be the future of advertising and it benefits everyone in the ecosystem; the users, the publishers, the advertisers.”
However, the competition is fierce in the native advertising industry with more brands realising the potential of targeting consumers in a non-interrupting manner. Here are five rules and best practices on how to keep your advertising native, engaging, and effective.
1. Be Social
Consumers are on social media, so should be your brand. A robust presence on multiple social media platforms allows you to interact with your consumers where they are. With over 2.3 billion monthly active users as of 2019, Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide. Users on Facebook spend an average of 10-12 minutes on their newsfeed. Similarly, Twitter’s 230 million users register 150 million timeline views per quarter. Both Facebook and Twitter have, through feed-based advertising, developed one of the finest forms of native advertising, offering a high-quality user experience. With LinkedIn and Instagram also aggressively marketing their solutions, the opportunity to natively advertise on these platforms is increasing. But to get the most from your native ad, focus on creating content that is helpful, interesting, attracts attention and provides value to the readers. And fight the urge to sell.
The Dragon Challenge campaign by Land Rover is considered one of the most excellent native advertising campaigns of 2018. With stunning visuals, engaging story, fabulous cinematography, and loads of suspense, the ad shows the first-ever attempt to scale the 999 stairs to Heaven’s Gate in China by car. Promoted on social media, it uses a storytelling approach to showcase the values of the Land Rover brand (excellence, daring, success), for an unforgettable native experience.
2. Understand Your Audience
A deep understanding of your consumers or audience will help you execute a successful native campaign. For this, you must know where your consumers are, what they do, and how they interact with your brand. This enables you to craft an appealing message that directly engages them. The success of native advertising rests on the ability to target a specific audience and personalise the content appropriately. Reports indicate that native ads are 53 per cent more frequently looked at by consumers than display ads. Thirty-two per cent of the respondents even said that they would share these ads with friends and family, while only 19 per cent would share traditional ads. InterContinental’s native campaign resulted in a 12 per cent brand lift and 24 per cent increase in luxury association amongst frequent fliers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The brand studied their audience and created engaging content about food, drink, and culture, highlighting trends and tastemakers, and tying them to their hotels and resorts.
3. Identify Key Platforms
Knowing your audience is great, but also knowing where they are is equally important. Contextual relevance is all-important, especially for discovery platforms working outside search and social sites. As the core of your strategy, look at how the platform works with target specific audiences like food, entertainment, travel, fashion, technology, etc.
So selecting your publisher or platform where you will advertise is crucial to a native advertising campaign’s success. Research your audience as well as the different platforms that will work best for you. But also look at the support you might need for content creation, the targeting capabilities the platform offers. And finally, the successful case studies with other brands.
4. Make it Visual
We live in a visual world, and short and visually stunning messages are best accepted by today’s fast-paced consumer. If your content can grab the eye first, only then it might capture the mind of the reader. Long, text-heavy advertising is easy to miss in a newsfeed or timeline bustling with visually- appealing content. Visual content, such as infographics and data visualisations, generates 30 times more traffic than text articles, and native advertising campaigns that include a visual component are far more likely to be successful than those without one. Over 74 per cent of social media marketers leverage visual elements and components in the content they publish. Video content is extremely important for a marketing campaign to thrive in engagement. When done well, a native video is an excellent narrative driven by powerful storytelling. They aren’t just watched, but are liked, and shared, and have the potential to go viral.
5. Keep Brand at Bay
Constantly plugging your brand or services takes away from the ethos of native advertising. So keep your brand at bay and focus on offering value to the reader. Give them valuable information without being pushy. Consumers seek engaging content that educates, inspires or solves a problem. Rather than advertising, brand promotion, native provides information, it answers questions, and it solves problems people seek to remedy. But using language that shows that the content is a paid ad, even if that unit does not contain traditional promotional advertising messages.
Native advertising is one of the fastest-growing markets in the digital ecosystem, but perhaps the least understood. So experiment, be courageous, create numerous brand stories, and try different approaches to see what works best. However, always remember your native advertising campaign is at its best when your brand captivates, informs, entertains with great user experience.