InsightsA beginner’s guide to native advertising

A beginner's guide to native advertising

Native ads match the form and function of the platform on which they hosted. Essentially, they’re ads that are part of the content (or, some would phrase, are disguised as it).

What is native advertising? 

Native ads match the form and function of the platform on which they hosted. Essentially, they’re ads that are part of the content (or, as some would say, are disguised as it).

Online publishers like Buzzfeed are full of this stuff, and depend on it for revenue. Sitting amongst the regular editorial content are “promoted” posts – native ads – which follow exactly the same function and form as everything around them.

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Here’s what that promoted post looks like:

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It’s a listicle – a simple content format that mimics everything else on Buzzfeed – but it has been paid for by Destination British Columbia to appear on the site.

Why do people use native ads?

Over time, internet users have become unaffected by traditional display advertising. Display ads such as banners are less effective than they used to, as we are now so used to them that we ignore them completely – and if we aren’t ignoring them, we’re blocking them.

For example, the average clickthrough rate of display ads across all formats is just 0.06%.

Also, according to a recent Adobe report 198 million of us are actively blocking them using software. In the UK alone adblocking grew 82% over the past year, and 41% globally.

Native ads also have a different function to display ads. This method of advertising is often used to increase brand awareness rather than to drive immediate clickthroughs.

Is a native ad more effective than a display ad? If it’s well written and successfully fits within its online surroundings then yes, it can be.

But there are plenty of instances where native ads stick out like a sore thumb and demonstrate no editorial credibility. This is because it’s really difficult to get the balance right. Yes, it has to fit into the house style of its host, but a native ad is also still an ad by nature.

Here are some do’s and don’t’s:

Good quality native advertising

On the Native Advertising Leaderboard, the number one spot is currently held by Grit & Gracea longform piece about pointe shoes paid for by footwear company Cole Haan that was published on the The New York Times online on October 30th.

The ad was received exceptionally well in terms of social shares:

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Let’s take a look why that might be, and therefore work out what a great native ad may comprise of.

  1. The post is clearly labelled as a promoted post. It’s open and honest about what it is:

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2. The production of the piece is immaculate and high quality, which means people are pulled into reading it. There are large, high definition photographs, beautiful fonts, video, and pull quotes:

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3. It fully considers the platform on which it exists, and the way readers use it. The New York Times produces numerous longform pieces which investigate a certain theme  – and this follows the same format. People actually want to read it.

4. It doesn’t promote the brand in a boring way. It’s creative. Cole Haan haven’t written a post about themselves, they’ve commissioned a high-quality piece of writing to ensure readers associate that level of quality with their brand.

Poor quality native advertising

Recently, NME entered into an partnership with Windows 10 which produced an overly promotional, ill-fitting – and now deleted – review of 2015’s best debut albums.

Granted, branded content is tricky to execute (and NME needs revenue from somewhere now its content is online and in-print for free) but the publication completely discounted its loyal following when they published this native ad.

It was littered with jargon and links to Windows 10, sticking out like a sore thumb compared to everything else that actually focuses on music:

Also, the piece wasn’t initially labelled as “promoted” – an almost guaranteed way to ensure people never come to your site again. They feel hoaxed. Be transparent, open, and honest about the branded content you produce as well as ensuring its good quality.

Conclusion

What’s the best way to create a successful native ad? It’s different for every brand and platform, but essentially it should be:

  • open and honest about what it is. Don’t pretend it isn’t branded.
  • in-keeping with platform. This means in style, tone, and subject.
  • creative in how it promotes your brand, rather than blatantly obvious and overly promotional.
  • functional, as opposed to existing for the sake of it. It needs to be interesting, entertaining or useful, otherwise it’ll get lost.

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