While regular ads rarely add value to the reader and therefore is ignored, great native advertising can add value to everyone.
Writing a book is hard work, chances of being published are tiny and making a profit is often out of the question. So what if I told you there is a way of getting that book done, published AND profitable – before even one single copy has been sold?
It’s possible, me and my co-writer did it and the secret formula was win-win-win native advertising.
Almost two years ago, I and my content marketing colleague Pontus Staunstrup wrote a Swedish book on content marketing – “Content marketing för alla” (Content Marketing For All). We both agreed on trying to push down the price of the book to make it affordable even for students. Books like this usually cost between 250-350 Swedish kronor (€25-€35), but we wanted to go as low as 100 kronor (€10).
While discussing the book’s price, I came up with the idea of using native advertising as a way to finance the book and keep costs down. While regular ads rarely add value to the reader and therefore is ignored, great native advertising can add value to everyone; the reader, the advertiser and the publisher.
No editorial content would be replaced, but the native ads were there to deep dive into subjects directly related to the editorial content.
A fresh approach to selling native advertising
Me and Pontus are both big advocates for native advertising and saw our chance to be innovative and create a new best practice of how great native advertising should be created and sold.
Our goal was to make native ads that were just as good, hopefully, better, than the editorial content. To achieve this, we flipped the sales pitch and took an editorial approach to it in this order:
- Editorial choice of advertisers’ topics
We looked at the rough manuscript of the book and identified 10 topics that could be made even better with deeper content from a true thought leader. No editorial content would be replaced, but the native ads were there to deep dive into subjects directly related to the editorial content.
- Editorial choice of advertisers
Out of the 10 chosen topics, we identified the greatest thought leader in Sweden on each topic. It could be a person, a company or an institution. Those ten experts become our only chosen advertisers, no one else were allowed to advertise in our book. And to really take advantage of the competence from the advertisers, we chose a native advertising format with engaging and educating content within each advertiser’s area of expertise.
- Pitch to advertisers with editorial cred
I created a pitch mail and approached the first four on the list. Three of them said yes and the ad space was full. The texts were written by either me or my co-writer Pontus, in close cooperation with the advertisers. The book was over-financed and ready to hit the shelves!
The magic triple win of native advertising
In a perfect world, all native advertising should aim for the magic triple win:
- A win for the publisher who gets paid for receiving engaging and ready-to-publish content.
- A win for the advertiser who reaches their audience in a way that traditional advertising can’t.
- A win for the readers or viewers who gets a content experience without negative distraction in the form of bad, intrusive content.
Judging on the feedback from both advertisers and readers, we were able to achieve this with our book. One of the advertisers, Johan Svensson, former business developer at Berghs School of Communication, had this to say about their choice to participate in the book:
“The book format gave us a chance to reach our target group in an environment free from distractions and in the middle of a learning process where they are very receptive to new information.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This is what the native ads looked like – this one about account-based marketing: Thought-leading interesting content, clearly marked as an ad, a tonality similar to the editorial content and placed in a chapter of the book directly related to the topic of the native ad.
Your turn: is your content win-win-win?
Whether you’re writing a book or not, the win-win-win method can be used for anyone working with native advertising. So let’s take a moment and reflect on the value of your own native advertising.
Even though native advertising content goes under the category paid media, try to look at it as earned media. Try to find a story and angle good enough to be pitched to a journalist.
Don’t see native advertising as a way of buying yourself attention, think of it as paying to add value to your audience. Your audience will spot the difference of mindsets miles away and go somewhere else if the content isn’t created for them.
Some questions to answer that will steer you in the right direction:
- Advertiser: Is your native advertising as good or better than the editorial content surrounding it? Is your content getting the same or better time spent numbers compared to the editorial content?
- Publisher: Do you have the same demands on content quality for advertisers as you have on your own journalists? Do you ever say “no” to advertisers due to poor content quality?
Two quick yes answers and you’re on the right track as an advertiser or publisher. If your answer is “no”, try to bring the lessons learned from selling native ads in my book and the win-win-win formula.
It’s a way of thinking that I bring with me to work every day. Trust me, it works.
Need more native advertising inspiration?
Download “Award-Winning Native Advertising Examples 2017”