It’s not easy for advertisers; the old banner ad is dying, and more intelligent approaches are needed to earn the attention of far more savvy consumers. But it’s not all bad news. Native advertising is not only great at earning ROI, it’s also resulting in some stellar content. Our Group Sales Manager Kate Galea shares her top 10 examples.
While we can huff and puff about how much harder it is for advertisers to earn attention than it used to be, I have to ask: is this really all that surprising? Over the years, consumers have become savvier and smarter about how they find the information they are looking for. They’ve become much better at blocking banner ads and tuning out traditional marketing and advertising methods, so marketers need to work harder to hook this new breed of consumer.
But aha! Advertising can be clever, too. Well, not so much clever as just smarter about how we reach audiences, and with better access to tools that reveal what audiences value so that we can provide that. Enter native advertising.
There are a lot of definitions and thoughts about native advertising floating around out there but, in a nutshell, it’s advertising that is created to suit the platform on which it is published, and which adds to the readers’ experience rather than disrupting it. Simples.
Native advertising can help a brand to play the long game in marketing. It can give a brand a voice and, thanks to the chosen publisher, a voice that the audience wants to hear.
But enough talking about it; let’s look at some examples.
Ebay on Imgur: just fit in
Imgur has set clear guidelines about how native advertising is displayed on the website. This is a great example of why it pays to invest time in the content itself – a platform’s audience is used to a certain tone and style, so consistency reigns here.
Key takeaway: Advertisers choose the platform for the audience and the reach. Native advertisers choose the platform for the audience, the publisher’s credibility, and the voice and tone of the publication.
OITNB in The New York Times: relevance first
This one is a bit old, but it’s also one of the first examples of the power of native advertising to add content value. The post is sponsored by Netflix, which is promoting Orange is the New Black, but nowhere is the television show’s title blaring out from the text. Rather, the piece is an in-depth and quality article about women’s prisons, which would be just as at home as Times editorial.
Key takeaway: Don’t shove your brand down the reader’s throat – it will only detract from the consumer’s experience. Education, information and inspiration: the triumvirate of successful, non-invasive advertising.
Purina and Buzzfeed: cat videos. That’s all.
YouTube is basically just cat videos at this point, so of course it makes sense for Purina to jump on that trend. This Dear Kitten video racked up more than 5,000,000 views in four days. It’s cute, it doesn’t bang on about the nutritional value of cat food and you forget that you are watching an advert, not that I watched it over and over or anything.
Key takeaway: The people have spoken, and they want #morecatvideos. But seriously, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: give the people what they want.
House of Cards in The Atlantic: feed the people
To promote the third season of House of Cards, Netflix worked with The Atlantic on a piece of native that was designed to rustle up interest in America’s presidential couples. The production is brilliant and smart, as is the content. There are pictures of America’s first couples kissing, the Obamas looking happy, timeline infographics, videos, details about scandals – anything and everything you could possibly want to know about the country’s first couples.
Key takeaway: Give the people what they want! Figure out why they are engaging with a particular platform, and emulate that.
Dell in The New York Times: church and state
This campaign ran for three months on the site and was a four-part series. It was the Times’ first experiment with native and, although their native content is ever-evolving, from this we can see that they were clear about their partnerships and labelling from the get-go.
Key takeaway: If brands are working with the editorial team, then make sure you know who has final sign-off of the content from the beginning.
Animal rescue and Tinder: use all your tools
We preach about good native being clear and seamless, and Tinder has actually done it well. Four million dogs are abandoned in the US every year. Social Tees Animal Rescue needed to find a way to get America to fall in love with these rescue dogs again, so they went to the one place where everyone is looking to find love. Or something like love. The Puppy Love campaign offered abandoned puppies as ‘matches’, so people could meet and get to know a potential new pet.
Key takeaway: Capitalise on why people are engaging with that platform in the first place. If you can also melt some hearts with cute puppies, then that’s even better.
Microsoft in Buzzfeed: be catchy
BuzzFeed offers only native advertising on its site now. It sits seamlessly within the content, differentiated only by the big ‘Promoted by’ banner across it. BuzzFeed’s in-house creative team works with brands and agencies to craft custom social posts that are designed for sharing. Content ranges from humorous to inspirational, and comes in various formats, like this listicle from Dell, for example. Custom social posts are crafted in an authentic voice that communicates a brand’s aspirations and themes, and inspires consumers to share.
Key takeaway: With native advertising, sharing is caring in more ways than one. If you can create a piece of content that not only promotes a product or service, but is so catchy that a consumer then wants to share it with others, you’re doing it right.
Wedpics and Insta: a perfect match
Of course they had to monetise this platform, and of course they did it with native. But they were clever about when and where this content appeared in my feed. It’s just the one post so it wasn’t overwhelming, and it relates to the targeted nature of native advertising, and I had just helped my sister pick out her wedding dress.
Key takeaway: For publishers, decide what percentage of your space you are going to offer up for native advertising and stick to it. For advertisers looking for the right publishing partner, make sure you aren’t jumping in with one that churns out native. They need to exist for editorial first so as with everything – apart from burgers – less is more.
Chubb in Insurance & Risk Professional: consumable and sharable
Native advertising doesn’t always have to be just text. 2014 saw the infographic properly embraced, and it is still going strong. They are a jazzy, creative way to communicate data and share your wisdom, without asking for too much commitment from audiences, which is why Chubb was so keen to partner with our Insurance & Risk Professional team on this one. Additionally, they work as a great piece of content that can be repurposed outside the original print publication.
Key takeaway: If you have worked with a publisher to produce a great piece of native advertising, consider how you can maximise that investment by sharing the artwork in other ways and on other platforms.
Zagg in Mashable: in the right place
The only thing that lets this piece down is that it is not clearly identified as different from the rest of Mashable’s editorial. Once you are in the article there aren’t many reminders that this has come from Zagg. But the story sits in the Mashable Technology section, it’s about technology and it’s exactly the sort of article you might hope to find there.
Key takeaway: Position the native piece where it is going to make the most sense, even if that isn’t necessarily the part of the site that receives the most traffic.
Native advertising is here to stay and publishers have a responsibility to their own brands, to the audiences and to the advertisers to do it well. When done right it can add to the readers’ experience on the platform and provide impressive ROI for advertisers. Yes, it takes more time and effort, but we know that nothing works as well to build brand trust and reputations like good content.
I had better go and sell some now…