By Sultan Riaz | Marketing Coordinator
One of the hottest trends in online marketing is native advertising. While not necessarily a new concept — the relatively old-school advertorial has been around for decades — it has seen a resurgence in the current content marketing era. Recent examples of native advertising can be seen with Google’s paid search results, YouTube’s sponsored videos and, to a lesser extent, trending topics on Twitter.
Content marketing has led to innovative forms of online advertising. With the online user experience key to a successful marketing campaign, this non-disruptive form of online advertising will continue to capture marketers’ addition — and advertising dollars — in 2013.
Native Advertising: The Basics
Native advertising is considered one of the newest forms of online marketing.
According to a September 2012 article in Mashable, the term didn’t take root until famed start-up investor Fred Wilson told an audience at OMMA Global in early 2012 about “native monetization” for Web properties, which he described as ads that were “unique and native to the experience” of a website.
Dan Greenberg, the CEO of Sharethrough, is credited with coining the actual term “native advertising.” Here’s Greenberg’s definition: “Native advertising is a form of media that’s built into the actual visual design and where the ads are part of the content.”
What separates native advertising from the equally hot trend of content marketing is a matter of debate. John LoGioco, SVP and general manager of content at Outbrain, recently told Mashable that the two are pretty much the same. “Native advertising seems to be the thing that most are able to hang on to and get it.”
What Makes for Great Native Ads
At its best, native advertising blends seamlessly with the editorial content of a website while providing content that is valuable to the target audience. Below is an example of native advertising on Twitter.
Not surprisingly social media juggernauts are publishing sponsored content, but now popular blogs and editorial websites are beginning to promote sponsored content as well. Buzzfeed is one major publisher that is posting sponsored content for its users. Articles on its main page blend in with the surrounding content. Below is an example of a sponsored article on Buzzfeed.com
In this native ad, Volkswagen provides a unique article for Buzzfeed readers. Instead of simply scrolling through the pictures and reading the article, Volkswagen asks users to listen to the popular song “Get Happy” while they read.
This type of interactive article is non-disruptive. It also provides an entertaining experience for the user. Volkswagen’s sponsored content partnership with Buzzfeed is a good example of a brand’s owned content mixed seamlessly with a publication’s editorial content while providing a valuable experience for the user.
Publisher, Advertiser or Consumer: Who Benefits?
Forbes has reported that consumers find native advertising to be “misleading”; however, reports such as this haven’t prevented marketers from focusing on native ads in 2013. Solve Media reported that 57% of media buyers plan to increase their investment in native advertising in 2013.
While publishers and brands can’t seem to get enough of native advertising, consumers aren’t yet sure of their benefit. For example, Volkswagen’s sponsored content in Buzzfeed blends in well and provides value to consumers, but does it connect to Volkswagen? The answer largely depends on a consumer’s affinity for Volkswagen and its products.
If you’re a fan of Volkswagen and its famous array of critically acclaimed advertisements, then the connection is obvious. However, if you don’t closely follow Volkswagen, or its various marketing campaigns, the business purpose of the brand’s “native ad” likely wasn’t clear.
That disconnect is what marketers still need to overcome when utilizing native ads and sponsored content. Blending their brand’s messaging and imagery with a publication’s editorial content is great, but if the business purpose between the article and the sponsor isn’t clear, the ad will do little to convert potential customers into actual buyers.
Publishers benefit from native ads that are relevant and valuable to their user base. As our SEO in 2013 infographic details, frequency of new content is essential for brands to reach their SEO goals. Most publishers have little issue with posting sponsored content on their sites, provided it offers a value to their readers and is differentiated from editorial content.
While native ads help publishers generate some much-needed online ad dollars, advertisers are left with campaigns that are often difficult to measure, particularly with respect to moving product and securing new customers. Until marketers can consistently produce results and generate leads, native advertising risks becoming another overhyped marketing trend.
In my next post I will discuss some of the best practices for native advertising.
Is native advertising something you and your company plan on investing in 2013? Tweet us at @MediaWhizInc to discuss.