For most of this past year I haven't been able to get through a morning without tripping over the topic of Native Advertising. Since 'Project Devil', the debate about effective placement, display specs and integrated editorial have borne an exciting amount of creative consideration around the visual realization and placement of this content.
Now, while the discussion continues, the topic of Native Video seems to be taking center stage.
Like Native Advertising, Native Video is nothing new. But, as the number of people turning online for their entertainment, infotainment and ascertainment continues to grow, it's easy to understand why cracking the Native Video piece is so important. Moreover, being a multi-sensory vehicle, when done right, video can make a deep, lasting impression with consumers, leveraging site and sound to tap into, and direct, emotion that ignites action for a brand in a way display can't.
An important detail to note, Native Video is distinctly different from Native Advertising opportunities on, in and around video. And, while there are many exciting things happening in this arena, the discussion around Native Video spans from placement, and the various levels of brand integration, to creation of video content specifically tailored for digital channels, publishing environments and finally those audiences.
As with Native Advertising, authenticity and a genuine consideration for the audience within specific publishing environments is important to ensure the protection of a brand's credibility, the effectiveness of their message and ultimately to secure a meaningful connection with the consumer. Beyond the publishers' requirement to maintain their audiences' trust, disclosure of sponsored content sets the stage for a receptive viewer. That said, if the brand connection to the video content is right, fear to disclose shouldn't be a consideration. Remember, users are savvy, socially connected, vocal and passionate about their content and their space. Any attempt to pull the wool over their eyes is a risk no brand should take. Backlash is usually quick and public. The PR gained from such events is not the type of attention brands look to attract.
Now, while all this may sound like a giant "duh", you need only consider great brand moments like American Apparel's Hurricane Sandy sales and NBC's Golf Channel #IHaveADream to realize that even the most basic common sense considerations don't always find their way into the conceptual or strategic filtering process. Add to this the fact that some marketers jumping into Native Video may have little to no video production experience or understanding of the video making process and you can begin to imagine the challenges publisher/brand partnerships face in this field. To be even more specific, while many brands and agencies may have fully staffed video production teams, they're likely focused on traditional broadcast formats and it's not yet a standard that these teams are fully integrated with the digital marketing arm of an agency, leaving marketers to fend for themselves amidst demanding digital time and budget constraints. This is where publishers can help.
Before we go on, a foundational detail must be stated; brands need to make connections with individuals. To that point, brands come to publishers to increase awareness and build relationships with future brand ambassadors. All the science, all the data, all the process and methodologies aside, that's what it's about.
This is where the editorial filter is key. When responding to RFPs, agencies/brands must realize that ideas pitched have certainly gotten the publisher approval. Resistance for a publisher to simply and outright endorse a brand through a native format, especially one as powerful as video, without calling out sponsorship should be recognized as a service to the brand; saving it from backlash and the negative effects of ineffective placement. Conversely, publication networks that readily run sponsorships or endorsements with little consideration probably don't have genuinely engaged eyeballs or care much about their audience, and furthermore, much for the depth of impact of your view. Remember, we're talking Native here. And to that point, even pre-roll should have forethought; while everyone loves kittens, surely Fancy Feast Pre-roll would be wasted on a male, 18-34, enthusiast site ahead of training footage.
Finally, before getting into "keys to success", I want to iterate that when we discuss creating Native Video content, creative and publishers are excited to get it right. Pushback and refocusing on the end audience needs to be considered as care for success. Brands that lose site of the audience lose the effect of their message. Personally, in production I've seen concepts shift from an audience based focus to the creation of a product based piece that forgets the audience isn't interested in watching the camera make love to the product unless Emily Ratajkowski is slathering it with BBQ sauce or Ryan Gosling's dreamily staring at it, or even refusing it. Simply put, if you're pushing, or stretching, too hard, to fit the brand into the content stream, there's something wrong. Once you buy into the partnership, protect the process to ensure the brand to content to audience balance is right.
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Manuel Donayre is the Executive Director of Creative & Marketing for Evolve Media Corp., an integrated digital media company focused on vertical publishing, advertising sales and marketing services for its clients. Originally hired in 2009 to develop the eight-person Sales Integrations group, Manuel helped grow the department to a team of 85, made up of both domestic and international designers, directors, front-end developers, site engineers, project managers and marketing strategists. While managing the Creative division, Manuel continues to oversee and develop award-winning integrated campaign programs, creative brand strategies, core standards and practices, infrastructure development, as well as video production and concept generation for all Evolve divisions to execute against global sales and company goals. During his time at the company, he played a key role in helping Evolve win numerous campaign awards from organizations such as Digiday, Cynopsis Sports Media, ClickZ Marketing, and thinkLA Interactive.
With over 20 years of experience, Manuel came to Evolve from A.D.D. Marketing & Advertising, where he served as Creative Director Offline/Interactive. Previously, he worked in the music industry at both MCA Music Entertainment Group, and Priority Records, and spearheaded the brand development and video production for many award winning artists.
Manuel received his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Art Institute of Southern California.
March 19, 2014