From a premium publisher’s point of view, native advertising does not offer any kinds of manuals to help define our strategy and hit the mark. I think we have to consider certain vital points that we might forget to consider because they can seem obvious.
From my years of experience implementing strategies of native advertising in several media companies in Spain, I have created the following guidelines for premium publishers doing native advertising.
1. Allocate a premium spot for top projects. It does not mean they always have to be on the frontpage of the website or on the top positions on main sections. Thanks to experience and to data we are now able to define those positions for each project depending on topic/target/objectives of each campaign and its actions.
2. The in-house content studio should be involved in content development. You do not need a team with lots of employees, just a few highly qualified ones placed in key positions (creative planning, video production, design/usability, analytics), and then a good network of part-time expert contributors of specific areas (such as personal finance, food, real estate, interior design, technology, etc.) that follow the guidelines and the criteria of the content studio.
Help brands produce and distribute in appropriate formats. You will get amazing results.
3. Treat the content that brands are producing for their own platforms appropriately. I know this is a controversial issue. It is logical that brands also want to produce their own branded content and in some cases they also prefer to own it. Help them to produce and distribute it in appropriate formats (e.g. display native). You will get amazing results.
4. Disclose. Certainly, an agreement among publishers, agencies and brands is required in order to establish minimum compliance rules that allow a fair competition among all publishers on equal terms.
5. Do not imitate Facebook! This is a crucial point. Native advertising by a premium publisher has nothing to do with native formats on social networks. In the first case, the native ad creative has the form of content that is fully integrated with the publisher’s editorial content, relevant and of top quality. Native advertising by a premium publisher protects the brands by showing them in a trustworthy setting that social networks do not offer nor seek to offer for the time being. Their model of user attraction and retention is extraordinary in many cases, but its essence is completely different from a premium publisher.
Investing in your sales team and making clear procedures will create opportunities when you least expect it.
6. Involve your sales department: the entire commercial team, not just a small part of ‘chosen ones’. Native advertising is complex and it requires a pre-sale and execution process different from a conventional display campaign. Invest in training and motivation of your sales team. This, together with clear procedures, will create opportunities when you least expect it.
7. Involve the newsroom. I realise this might be surprising to some. It is generally assumed that a content studio is to preserve the ‘Church and State’ separation. However, once the rules and tasks are clearly divided, editorial journalists will not be compromised by participating in the development of native advertising. They have a great deal of knowledge on how to use headlines, which experts to use, how to deal with sensitive issues, which trends are relevant etc. Do not waste that in-house competence! The editorial journalists are colleagues who are surely happy to collaborate with you.
Do not try to look for a miracle formula that will work for years. Evolve or you will drain your model and your audience.
8. Take care of the content and avoid the lure of the native quick fix. It sounds obvious but it’s still important: spend time thinking about the most appropriate approach, work and improve your formats, constantly lean on experts in design, UX and technology and listen to your analytics team… Do not try to look for a miracle formula that will work for years. Evolve or you will drain your model and your audience.
9. Extract ideas from the marketing world, but also of artistic movements, trends, journalistic moments, great events, technological and scientific advances…
10. Be bold. Try new things, analyse them and demonstrate they can work.
11. Do not neglect the technology. Remember that it is conceptually simple to create good native advertising once you have a content studio in place and some learnings. In order to reach scale native advertising can require a solid technological development. Keep this in mind; invest in the future.
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