A key point of native advertising is that it should blend with the rest of the content on a media platform. Indeed, that’s why we call it native advertising. But the blending often seems to be limited to what the ad looks like. To a large degree we have emphasized the visual aspects of native ads.
The definition provided by IAB is actually broader than that. It says “paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong.”
Especially the last part – ‘consistent with the platform behavior’ – has as much to do with the tone and attitude of the media platform as with the visual aspects and navigation. And in order to succeed with your native advertising you need to thoroughly understand the platform you’re buying real estate on.
Every media platform is unique
If you think about your favorite media outlets for a second I’m sure you will agree that they each have their unique feel. If they’re doing tabloid journalism being cheeky and upfront comes with the territory. If they’re following in the footsteps of Buzzfeed and others, they likely rely on listicles and lots of visual content to get their content across. Whereas outlets like New York Times always lets the visitor know in a subtle way that substance and track record counts. TechCrunch and Wired will always highlight the techy aspects. Substitute for your local alternatives and I think you get the drift. That unique feel or perspective can be based in politics, finance, sports, lifestyle etc., but it’s always there. And it’s a key reason why you and many others go there.
When we as advertisers buy ad space on a media platform we need to respect that unique feel or perspective. And our content has to reflect it. Because if it doesn’t we run the risk of alienating visitors to that site, and ultimately devaluing the very platform we’ve paid to have a presence on. That’s not in our interest or in the interest of the platform. Therefore our content should try to add to the experience of the visitor, to strengthen the feeling he or she gets from going there. Our ads are not there to break the magic, but to make it even stronger.
We still want to tell our stories, but we need to do it in a way to feels credible to the platform we’re publishing on.
Three key points
The native advertising project I’ve been working on at PostNord, where we ran daily articles in Sweden’s biggest media outlet for financial news, very much tried to have a native feel across the board. Here are three key points I’d like to share with you:
1. Make sure you study the platform throughly before committing to running native ads on it. It’s not enough to be a casual user, or trust in what someone on the outside tells you. You need to be certain that you will be able to create content that tells your stories, and does it in a way that works on the media platform.
2. Reach out to the newsroom on the media platform and get their view on what works and what doesn’t. If they steer clear of click-bait headlines and hyperbole, you don’t want to be the one that intropduces it on the platform. This was an important part of our success, since the content creators could work closely with the newsroom.
3. Be wary of the inside-out perspective. One of the reasons why native ads work best when crafted by journalists or copywriters is that they know how to tell a story from the audience point of view. And journalists in particular are used to adapting their writing to the style of the platform. This advice is useful in content marketing as well, but vital in native.
To me a deep understanding of the media platform is a must for any undertaking in native advertising. And it has to be a joint responsibility for all partners involved in the project, brands, content creators and the media outlet. If we create great content that feels native in every aspect of the word we will not only get our own stories in front of our target audience, we will also add value to the media platform itself. And that is a good way of ensuring the continued success of native advertising.