A Closer Look at Native Advertising [Feb. 27, 2015]
By Tom Wentworth
Native advertising hit its stride last year. “Paid posts,” which gained popularity on new media platforms like Buzzfeed and Business Insider, started popping up in venerable publishers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. And big brands have jumped on these sponsored content opportunities, including Dell and Shell, who have both invested in the creation of native advertising units within The New York Times.
While some brands find that native advertising “works,” as measured by clicks, it doesn’t always prove to be a valuable way to build and develop an audience. Many consumers question the credibility of sponsored posts, and will navigate away from pages that contain the dreaded “sponsored by” message.
In order to prevent this negative reaction from consumers, brands need to integrate native advertising efforts into a larger content marketing strategy. Brands today have essentially become publishers — from beefing up their corporate blog, to integrating content into product marketing campaigns. By creating a more comprehensive content strategy among all of their branded platforms, brands will find more success with third-party content campaigns like native advertising.
Some tips to get started:
1. Create Regular Content
Brands need to become a source of content that educates, entertains and inspires audiences, not “advertises” to them. In order to shift consumer perception from brand to publisher, brands need to establish a steady cadence of content creation on their own website’s blog or in other marketing materials before embarking on a native advertising campaign.
Once a brand builds a fan following for their internally generated content, consumers will be more open to seeing them post content on third-party publishers, like news sites. Chipotle is a prime example of a publisher-brand who has created a stream of valuable, interesting content that fans have come to know and love. They’ve experimented with content in a variety of places — from their tumblr page full of beautiful visuals, to a four-part satirical TV series on Hulu about the agricultural industry and how food is raised. The Hulu series was a way to shed light on the importance of eating food with integrity — selections with ingredients like those served at Chipotle.
The series, and other content streams hosted on their own site, established Chipotle as a source of information about agriculture and let customers know about the ingredients used in all meals. This in turn provided an opportunity for Chipotle to create well-received native advertising campaigns about those same topics on third-party news sites, like the “Food for Thought” series on The Huffington Post.