Marketing has changed. Today, those companies who aren’t innovating in marketing, by doing some experiments and testing new marketing strategies are losing ground to more creative entrepreneurs. That’s why Google, Apple and other companies are ahead in the market. And Native Advertising falls in this “marketing innovation” category and in this article I’ll show you its FULL power and why big brands are using it.
OK! Well, let’s start with a simple question:
“But WHY is this so important and there’s so much buzz about native advertising today?”
Simple. Because we are living in a digital marketing world where these facts below are now true:
- A 2014 study found that people from 18-to-34-year-olds are ignoring online ads much more than we think. Here are the statistics — Online Banner Ads: 51% (male) and 65% (female); Online social media Ads: 45% (male) and 51% (female); Online Search Engines Ads: 41% (male) and 52% (female)
— Source: Emarketer
- Ad blocking grew incredibly by 41% around the world since september 2014
— Source: Page Fair
- A massive amount of 57% of online users are afraid of receiving spam from advertisers OR of getting a virus when they click on banner ads
— Source: BannerStack
That’s a hard ground to be in nowadays for publishers, right?
Now let’s take a look on Native Ads and its basic stats:
And that’s just the beginning, believe me.
This is why Native advertising is growing a lot these days, because it is providing an alternative approach for digital marketers on Ads in order to kill advertising blindness as much as possible. And a smarter way of reaching customers, as well.
And now you’ll understand why.
WHAT IS NATIVE ADVERTISING IN SIMPLE WORDS?
Native advertising is paid content that disguise itself as original content. Period. Your company pays another website to publish articles, whitepapers, podcasts, videos, infographics and other different types of content that is CAREFULLY MADE to BLEND IN with the other website’s original content, which can be created either by the other company or by your own company.
There are 3 categories of Native Ads:
- FEED/SOCIAL — You place an Advertising in other website’s feed making it look just like original content from that company, in order to make the user think he’s reading normal content from that feed he likes. Usually, this category involves publishing just an image, a description and a link to your own website (or video if that’s the case).
- RECOMMENDED CONTENT — This is where you pay other websites to put your company’s content on the “Related Posts” area or some other area where the content is recommended. This can both involve displaying just an image, a description and a link OR a full article/video/infographic etc. There is also the option of paying the other website to CREATE recommended content FOR YOUR BRAND too (because it adds social proof). Buzzfeed did this in this article right here, just so you have an idea. But we will take a look on this with more care later in this article.
- PAID CONTENT INCLUSION — Here you usually send to another website you want to promote yourself in, a piece of content with all the voice tone, all the design patterns and everything else that needs to be done to imitate the original content style. This is most of the times, in-depth content which is delivered through full articles/videos/infographics etc. And the obvious difference is that it’s actually promoting YOUR own brand inside of that content somehow.
The goal of Native Ads is to basically follow these rules below:
- Create content that delivers the expected for visitors and customers
- Deliver content with the same voice tone that the original site has
- Make it blend in with the organic editorial content
THIS will create — when done right — a “stealth Ad” for customers because they won’t realize right away that what they’re reading, is actually an Advertise of another company due to the similarity with the original content.
But WHY this actually works?
Because you’re getting the customer to pay attention in an Ad he normally wouldn’t.
And once you have a prospect in that right mind frame and LISTENING to what the Ad is saying, you have a powerful chance to speak to him with more effectiveness. You can use copywriting, show-off how good your brand is through smart content and other marketing techniques because he’s PAYING ATTENTINO to what you’re saying, thinking it’s original content from that site he loves so much.
And this is what has been giving a much stronger ROI in CTRs and sales nowadays.
That’s why everybody is using it. Even the big companies like Netflix and Nike.
Because if a customer doesn’t know he’s reading an Ad then he will likely pay more attention to it and he’ll possibly buy from you. At least the odds and the statistics point to that direction. Also, there’s the trust factor too. If your target audience enjoys a particular website and you can place your company’s content ON THAT WEBSITE as if it were THEIR content, you get a big competitive advantage against everybody else because you’re hitting them from another angle, with something that doesn’t look like an Ad and with some social proof as well.
Well, for some this is awesome.
BUUUUUUUUT there are some issues that you might want to consider here as well.
And I believe you already have a hint why Native Ads can be sometimes…..a problem.
Can you guess? It rhymes with TRUST (Ops..!).
THE CONTROVERSIAL SIDE OF NATIVE ADVERTISING
So what’s the problem behind this new style of advertising? Well, the main issue here is that you are basically saying something like this to your customer/visitor:
That’s why marketers fight against each other about this topic.
THE ALLIES OF NATIVE ADS:
Some native advertising lovers think there’s nothing wrong with it UNLESS you use it wisely. Thinking about the customer and caring about delivering value in the middle of your ad. Because that way the customer will feel like he got a reward anyway AND he’ll understand that you still care about him, even when you try to sell something in stealth mode.
THE ENEMIES OF NATIVE ADS:
Whilst others think it is like calling the customer a dumb person and also give him second thoughts about every piece of content you publish. Because when the customer realizes that you you’re trying to get into his pocket with tricky strategies, and providing advertising in place of original content, he’ll abandon your company’s website for good.
Well, both sides of a coin.
I particularly like using Native Advertising as long as it delivers AT LEAST some value while I’m selling because that way, it will lower the chances of a customer getting angry and sometimes, due to the level of cleverness of your Ad, you’ll even be admired.
(Also, businesses need to SURVIVE nowadays because the game is totally harder.)
OK, but let’s cut to the chase.
Time to get a little more practical and see how it looks like in practice.
I’ll show you good examples first so you can crave in your head how Native Advertising is, and then I’ll show you ONE bad/ugly example, as well.
Here we go.
NATIVE ADVERTISING EXAMPLE #1 (GOOD) / CATEGORY: PAID CONTENT INCLUSION
A good example that is very effective is this one below from Brett Owens, a contributor on Forbes Magazine. He walks through some smart hints about investing whilst he gives you 5 Blue Chip Dividends that you should buy, and one that you should sell. So take a look on HOW it looks:
Now, if you pay attention to the red arrow it gives away that Brett is an outsider, he’s not from Forbes staff. Brett writes an article just like in Forbes’ design and following all their specific guidelines so it can blend in with the “organic content”. But a key point you should consider here is that he provides great value to the reader by giving away free hints for that specific moment on the stock market about those Blue Chips.
“OK, to the hell with those Blue Chips Peterson. But why is this an Ad?”
Here goes why:
Check the last paragraph where my arrow is pointing at. Get it?
That’s usually how brands are doing native advertising today, by placing their own content on other companies’ websites but DISGUISED as if it were just another piece of editorial content, and then they usually finish it with a CTA of some sort. That’s the smart catch.
The POWERFUL thing as you can imagine, is this:
- you’re giving a great amount of value to the readers.
- you’re using the same content style/design of the site, which will make it look normal
- since your content is stealth, readers already trust what’s written and they will likely read because for them it is common to consume content from that source.
That’s why Native Ads increases conversions A LOT.
Because you’re promoting YOUR COMPANY through a content stream where your customers do not expect any Ads. This strategy, therefore, will make the audience really notice your brand due to the level of engagement. Customers will always pay attention to what’s being said in that particular feed. And this, will place most of them EXACTLY where you want: Reading all your company’s sales content, especially if you use an indirect approach.
There’s STILL the need to actually provide value to the user (even if you don’t convince a person to buy).
Let’s take a look at an awesome example Netflix did, placing their content on the NY Times:
The article has a lot of the information, and I show you just a piece below:
They educated the NY Times readers about the reality of prison and inmates, showing people that Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” portrays the exact same reality in the show, making it look more realistic. Powerful. And smart.
Sounds about right.
OK. Now let’s take a look on another example of native advertising.
NATIVE ADVERTISING EXAMPLE #2 (GOOD) / CATEGORY: FEED/SOCIAL
The power of Native Ads lies on being stealth, so the more “invisible” you are when promoting a product or a service through content, the better. And one smart way to also do that is to mix the promotional content into a website’s (or social) feed.
Here’s a famous example of native advertising that you probably see at least 1x per day:
From the moment Google placed its Ads in the first search results (feeds), making it look like original results instead of putting those ads on the right column, it adopted native advertising automatically. And they did a great job because for us, sometimes those “ads-results” will actually serve our search intent. Yes, Google knows how to fit valuable paid links into its results and still make us happy.
And here’s another example that will make you more aware about Native Ads.
Check out this Pinterest feed that I got as a result after doing a search for “purse”:
As you can see in the image above, those red arrows are pointing to Ads that are blended in into the Pinterest feed making it look like a natural result. But if you take a closer look, you can see the price on the picture description, as I show you below:
I believe that you’re more familiar with Native Ads now, right? So, as you can see, those are pretty good examples of how native advertising can work very well, remain “stealth” to the eyes of customers and be effective when you know how to mix it up with the original content.
But this is STILL not over. There’s more to show you here, like infographics and videos.
So let’s cover a few more styles so you can be more aware of how to do this.
Because we are not done with good examples yet.
NATIVE ADVERTISING EXAMPLE #3 (GOOD) / CATEGORY: RECOMMENDED CONTENT
Recommended content also works really well because it makes Native Ads look even more powerful than it is, because to customers it looks like the company that is promoting your brand LOVES your product/service. Which is why this is another approach that makes it look much more NATURAL! And if one company appears to be promoting other company naturally, then it must be because those companies have a RELATIONSHIP between them.
And a relationship implies…….TRUE CONNECTION!
And if a company that a customer trusts, trust in YOUR company, then it is much easier to actually make a sell. That’s a fact. People love social proof.
OK. But do you want to see how it looks in practice with smart native ads?
Here’s a good example of how Onion Labs recommended Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9:
Awesome right? Onion Labs did a great job in this video because it looks like they have a friendly connection with Microsoft (since they start mocking it at the beginning) and it also appears that it was Onion Labs who approved Internet Explorer 9.
Besides, the funny promotion style reinforces that this was not made by Microsoft staff at all, which therefore makes it more powerful because this is content that FITS for their audience. And if fits to the audience’s language style and expectations, it has higher conversion rates.
Remember that the more a company CARES about how customers will receive a promotional content, more amusing the ads will be because a really good marketer will try to do something that the audience enjoys to read. Which therefore, will make customers happy with that company thanks to that level of effort made when they realize that was an advertising.
A powerful reminder:
“People may hear your words, but they FEEL your attitude” — John C. Maxwell
That’s what Onion Labs did. Because although it was an Ad, they cared about their audience and made something different, funny, that is promotional but that also fits their public. That’s good native advertising my friend.
PS: Hey, still here? Good. Because we are not over. There’s more special things to show you.
OK! Another good example of this “recommended approach” is the infographic below from FastCompany, on which they are promoting UPS:
Since the Fastcompany is taking credits together in this infographic above (as you can see in the bottom right corner), it falls into the category of “recommended” because it is using the brand’s name to help UPS, demonstrating support (i.e recommendation).
Simple to understand at this point, right?
And here’s one more good example from Buzzfeed:
As you can see above, this is clearly an Ad post that also fits and blends in into the original content, which satisfies the audience of Buzzfeed. A variety of people who reads Buzzfeed likes to buy that weird stuff they are promoting. Powerful and subtle blow.
NATIVE ADVERTISING EXAMPLE (BAD)
The Native Ads couldn’t have its reputation 100% pure, so yes, there are some really BAD examples of it and I’ll give you one that stood out lately online. And just one because I don’t like to talk bad things about other companies or other people.
Well, OK. As on every marketing strategy, there are those who didn’t understand this Native Ads quite right and they (must have) assumed that to do a native ads campaign all you need to do is to place a piece of content on another website, regardless of its content and how it will relate to the audience.
Now……….answer me this….
This is an example that Native Ads is not like a spell from Harry Potter. There are rules that needs to be followed in order for this strategy to work and clearly The Atlantic did this for money issues, without caring with its audience or with….logic.
They were clearly:
- NOT taking into account the content their audience was hoping to expect
- NOT giving ANY value at all in that article if the person didn’t “buy” Scientology
The Atlantic KILLED themselves when they did this.
Which is why it was deleted a few hours later by their own staff too. They recognized it was a mistake. (no wonder since even The Guardian made a post about it)
This was what The Atlantic said afterwards:
So no. Native Advertising is not an excuse to accept money and publish any type of content that doesnt relate to your audience and that don’t provide any value. Remember that. And remember The Atlantic fiasco.
CONCLUSION – THERE ARE RULES TO BE FOLLOWED TO MAKE NATIVE ADS GREAT
You might have realized that when done correctly, Native Advertising is a powerful marketing strategy. The big players on the market are taking this approach to strike customers intelligently, without being annoying or invasive, and they are being very successful as you can see.
But there are rules. Rules that separate the champions from the losers.
Rules that delimits clever marketing from fiasco marketing.
And the rules to do great native advertising campaigns are:
- USE CONTENT THAT IS EXPECTED AND VALUABLE — Remember that you must “disguise” your content in the rest of the crowd, so you must deliver something that relates to the audience, that uses the same voice tone and that will give some value to the person reading it. Even if the reader don’t click or buy anything at all.
- USE CONTENT THAT DRAWS ATTENTION — If the website lets you pick the type of content (video, infographic etc), then prefer to BREAK the pattern by publishing something people don’t see on that website for a while. But don’t rely only on this factor though, ask the website which content is more shared and read by users and choose the best option possible that can “break the pattern” and that is also a successful type of content. Remember that there is still the need to draw attention but you must follow their analytics data whenever possible.
- USE 1 OR 2 CALL TO ACTION — Although Native Ads is an intelligent way of selling a brand, don’t make the content exausting to the reader by placing more than 2 CTAs in the content. Never make it annyoing. Prefer to use 1 CTA so you don’t ruin the website’s quality so you don’t give that wrong impression that your brand is desperate for making a sale. Be wise.
Ok my dear reader, those are the rules you need to know.
That’s it. Now you have the knowledge of a powerful marketing strategy that can give you much more sales and results with strategical effort. You just need to put it in practice and try it.
And if you think there’s something missing, please leave it in the comments 🙂