Native advertising – what you need to know

Native advertising is the golden child of digital advertising at the moment. It attracts phenomenal, valuable results beyond CTRs (think page views, high levels of engagement, brand lift and web traffic). If done correctly it speaks to an audience need for trust, integrity and relevance and it generates reams of content (which online audiences cannot get enough of).

So what are the things you need to know about native? How do you ensure you become a native at native? There have been some seriously bad native advertising attempts over the last few years so pay attention and hopefully this will keep you out of the ‘Hall of Shame’.

  • Always, always make it known (subtly), that the piece of content your readers are engaging with is paid-for. Online audiences are savvy and they do not want to be deceived. If the content you are using is relevant and engaging then it won’t matter that it’s been paid-for. Which brings me to my next point…
  • Always use content that is relevant to your audience and make sure it adds value to their daily lives. Don’t let them get to the end of an article and realise they’ve just been duped and have nothing to show for it. Use properly researched and well written articles, professionally produced videos that tell real stories and high value infographics. Give them meat in the content and they won’t care that you paid for the placement, in fact, they may very well share it with their community.
  • Be sensible – make sure you are using your content on a trustworthy platform – trustworthy in the sense that it is trusted by its readers and trusted in the sense that it’s a safe brand space for you. Where you place your content speaks as much about your brand as the platform selection does. So make sure you work with a platform that has editorial integrity.
  • Native advertising takes many forms. Branded or sponsored content articles, infographics, videos and social media posts. While native is a relatively new tool here in SA, it should still be approached strategically. Don’t leap onto the bandwagon and spread your native ads around willy-nilly. The content, the messaging, the platform and the timing all need to strategically align with your campaign objectives.

And to help you on your way to a winning native campaign, we have chosen one really good example and one (infamously) bad one.

The good: Netflix paid for this article in the New York Times to promote Orange is the New Black. It was a strong piece that dealt with real issues facing women in prison and it mirrored what the characters on the series face. It was relevant, well researched and written, it added value with lots of meaty content and visuals and it was placed on a highly trusted platform. Winning all round.

The bad: The Atlantic in the US ran a piece of native content that lauded the leader of the Church of Scientology. The outcry was swift and severe and the piece was removed within 11 hours and resulted in The Atlantic reviewing their advertising policy. The debacle is outlined in this article.

To find out more about native as well as understanding and communicating to consumers in a digital age, industry players are encouraged to attend Digital Salt taking place in Cape Town (21 June) and Joburg (23 June).

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