Native Advertising Part 1: Inside the Controversial New Content Marketing Tactic
Native advertising isn’t a new phenomenon—marketing writers like me have been tasked with creating subtly branded advertorials for years, usually as part of a value add opportunity offered by a magazine or trade publication.
But with worldwide click-through rates for display ads now hovering at around .14% (Source: DoubleClick Rich Media Gallery), advertisers are turning to native advertising as a more effective way to engage their audiences.
What Is Native Advertising?
Native advertising is simply sponsored content displayed or presented in a similar format to a publication’s own content.
Why Is Everyone Talking About It Lately?
With reputable publications such as the New York Times and Vanity Fair debuting native ads in recent months, the talk has revolved around how to ensure native advertising remains within ethical boundaries. The FCC even held a workshop in December titled “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?” to discuss the topic.
Best Practices for Native Ads
While there is still a lot of debate surrounding what rules can and should be applied to native ads, people seem to agree on a few guidelines to start:
- Native ads must be transparently labeled as such
- They must provide value to the reader
- They should be of a similar content style and tone as the publication in which they’re run, not in an effort to mislead, but in order to improve the chances of engagement
With the heavily documented success of content marketing in recent years, there’s no question that well-done native ads can lead to increased brand engagement and sales, certainly as compared to the extremely low (let’s call it what it is – pathetic) engagement rates of digital banner ads.
3 Examples of Native Advertising That Made Headlines
1. Hennessy / Vanity Fair – The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down
Vanity Fair’s much-talked-about native debut in October 2013 was a short film / commercial by Cognac maker Hennessy called “The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down.” The video appeared on a page layout exactly like other Vanity Fair online videos but was labeled as “Sponsor Content.”
Now it lives on Vanity Fair’s video site:
2. Dell / New York Times – Will Millennials Ever Completely Shun the Office?
Dell was the first company to get native advertising space in the New York Times (digital edition) on January 8, 2014. This ad is clearly labeled as a paid post from Dell and features a Dell employee’s name and photo in the byline.
3. Toyota – Google +Post Ads
This isn’t an ad, but rather a video showing how Google’s +Post ad service works, using a case study about Toyota. +Post ads look like Google+ posts but appear across the Google Display Network.
So that’s a look at who’s making headlines with native advertising, but who’s using it most successfully?