Native advertising is now increasingly the de facto way that brands digitally promote the content they’ve created, hitting £216 million in UK expenditure in the first half of 2014 and accounting for 21% of display ad spend. And let’s face it: All CMOs should be aware of the value of content creation these days.
It isn’t banner advertising; the ads sit seamlessly into the overall
design of the host site so that they look and feel like part of the site
– and are delivered where users are already viewing. The ads also don’t
attempt to blur the lines between editorial and advertising – they
should always be clearly labelled as sponsored or promoted content, and
if they aren’t it violates both good practice and industry guidelines.
Unsurprisingly, social networks were the pioneers of native advertising
and allegedly this is where the term was first used: just look at
Facebook Sponsored Stories or Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. The IAB has
also just launched new guidelines to ensure a consistent and transparent approach to how native ads are presented.
What Should CMOs Know About Going Native?
Native advertising isn’t a silver bullet for success. It may well
enhance your overall online marketing, but it’s not the only answer to
your digital conundrum.
It works best for organisations that have embraced the content marketing
ethos. It benefits CMOs who really ‘get’ what content creation means
for their business and have nurtured the right sort of thinking
internally about the role of content across the customer journey.
If you work at an organisation that only pays lip service to content
marketing, then this may not work for you. You can run direct response
campaigns via native, but to really get the creative benefits and the
additional brand uplift and engagement, you really need to adopt a
So before you look at the operational side of ‘going native’ you need to
look at some key targets. Ask yourself some hard questions around your
brand’s content strategy:
1. Who do I want to target?
2. Is there a specific topic or niche where we want to excel?
3. What do I want those I target to associate with our brand?
4. What information are my customers looking for?
5. What type of content do my customers look at?
6. How can I keep existing customers happy?
7. How can I attract new customers?
8. What do we like/dislike about our competitors’ content strategy?
9. Is there anything I don't want to highlight about our brand?
10. What overall business objective do I want to achieve from my content marketing?
Yes, native advertising offers genuine scale and accountability. It
allows brands to reach consumers at scale through a single point of
entry, formatting content dynamically into the existing look and feel of
any given publisher and device. Little wonder then that content and
native, including in-feed, accounted for 21% (or £216m) of digital
display ad spend, according to IAB-PWC research for H1 2014.
But what you promote has to be good, valuable content your customer base will enjoy.
The Mobile Question
One of the major issues facing brands and CMOs advertising digitally has
been the move to mobile. With mobiles and tablets becoming more
commonly-used channels for internet access than the desktop computer,
the fact that traditional digital display advertising (for example
banner ads) don’t really work on those devices is a huge challenge.
One of the benefits of native is that it circumvents this problem: the
native ads/content form part of a mobile content feed and thus can be
viewed as easily as the publisher’s own content. Look at Facebook and
Twitter: they don’t run display, they run in-feed placements that native
can now bring out of those environments.
Evidence in click rates shows that users aren’t engaging like they used
to with traditional display: it doesn’t really work on mobile (as noted
above) and audiences are more interested in new, interesting content
than in what’s obviously an advert. Native sidesteps these challenges
and delivers great branded content where users are actually looking and
engaging, which is why it’s growing so fast.
It also creates a level playing field: a brand doesn’t need to be
Coca-Cola or Red Bull to create good, engaging content that enables it
What Are The Key Challenges?
Content marketing is not always easy to get right. Some brands do too
much, feeling they need an always-on ‘digital newsroom’. Others don’t
see it as relevant, for example “We make fixing screws; who’s going to
be interested in that?”
The first issue can be managed by finding the right balance and the
right content partner – many native platforms have content creation
capabilities and in-house content marketing expertise that can help
brands plan effective campaigns.
The second issue can be resolved by understanding that no matter what
you do, there will always be questions consumers need to ask. In the
example above, a set of instructional videos showing the best way to use
fixing screws in DIY could actually be really useful. Not everyone can
or would need to have a man jump from the Earth’s stratosphere!
Also, some CMOs have noted that native is a fairly new channel and there
are still debates over its definitions and measurement. But while it
may be a recent development, it has already matured (as the new IAB
guidelines demonstrate) and there is a wide range of metrics available
to determine the value of native ads for brand awareness and/or as a
performance marketing channel.
Native ads aren’t about the hard sell – they’re about brands showing
customers that they have something worth saying. In fact, we’re only
just scratching the surface of the creative and engaging possibilities
that native advertising offers to marketers.