Extend your reach and grow your audience, but be careful.
“Should we do native advertising?” I often get asked this question, and as with many things in life, my answer is “it depends” (my kids love that one). It depends on why and how it will be done. But before we get into the pros and cons, let’s define what native advertising is.
Native advertising is paid media where the ads have the same look and feel as the surrounding native content. It provides exposure for your brand to a media company’s audience, much like an ad you place on a website, with the difference that the “ad” is your content.
Why consider native advertising?
The primary reason is to expose your brand, and your content, to the large and often highly-targeted audiences that media companies offer. You can do this, of course, with conventional banner and print ads, but research suggests that native advertising can be much more effective. Native ads are viewed more frequently and longer than display ads (Source: Sharethrough) and they provide a superior, less ad-like user experience.
As to how native gets done, there are some caveats:
Media companies now have in-house content studios that work on native and other outsourced content for clients. They can help you either modify your existing content or create new content that is optimized for their format and audience, but be careful. In almost all cases, the content studio is a secondary revenue stream for the media company and doesn’t always get their full attention. The primary interest of the media company is to sell space, and some media company content studios use “cookie cutter” approaches which should be met with caution.
When working with media company content studios, it is important to stay very involved from concept to execution. Remember, it doesn’t matter if it is native advertising or content on your website. When it comes to content, “good isn’t good enough.” Always ensure that the content is exceptional and ties well to your brand and most importantly, your audience.
If you are going to do it, here are two other things to bear in mind:
Getting the most out of it. Another reason to consider native is to get exposure for your content to a media company’s audience in a way that helps you build your audience as well. Your ad should have a compelling call to action that drives readers/viewers to your website or content platform to learn more.
Paying for it. Native advertising is just that: advertising. It should come out of an ad budget. Save the content budget for the content you create on your own content platform(s).
We often tell our clients to act like a media company, and native advertising is a way to leverage the best media companies in the marketplace for distributing your content and raising the profile of your brand. But like any initiative, it should be part of a broader strategy to build your own audience and approached with due care.