I have been very fortunate to have managed The Globe and Mail’s first foray into native advertising content, for GE Canada, as well as subsequent campaigns for clients such as Tylenol. Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way that can help you make this powerful tool work for your brand.
- Native advertising is not advertorial. Although native advertising is executed in varying ways by different publishers, its most important advantage is that it allows links to the native content to surface within the editorial space. This raises the stakes on delivering a reader experience that is much closer to editorial than advertorial. In other words, “ditch the pitch.” Even though we identify native as “sponsor content” – because ultimately it is a form of branded content created in partnership with the advertiser – our own experience has proven (as have numerous surveys) that readers engage most strongly with native content that tells stories and enhances their knowledge rather than adopts a hard product sell.
- Make use of us as journalists. Remember those soft-focus days of yesteryear when there was a thing called “journalism”? Somewhere along the digital superhighway the term was widely displaced in favour of “content”. True, we do call ourselves the Content Studio and we do specialize in delivering custom content, but we are all journalists. We’ve knocked on doors, followed trails, chased the facts and interviewed amazing people. Remember that we can enhance your message and your brand with authentic reporting and storytelling talent.
- Not everyone is Buzzfeed. Listiclemania has swept the marketing world and it’s tempting to think that a native campaign will succeed purely by dint of headlines such as “Five amazing lifehacks that (insert key influencer here) learned from (insert whatever thing your brand does here).” OK, we confess that the listicle has an allure that we can’t always resist. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/partners/ge-innovation/six-human-tasks-that-robots-do-amazingly-well/article21966848/ But in this case, the key was to use the format in an seamless and appropriate way that reflected the message and values of the sponsor (in this case, GE Canada). Whether it’s a listicle, a Vine video or a photo slideshow, the message is simple: Make the format fit your storytelling goal, not the other way round.
- Don’t think of it as a fad. It might be tempting to think that native advertising is just this year’s buzzword, and that after the glitter has settled from 2015’s marketing awards ceremonies, brands and agencies will need to find a shiny new plaything. Don’t. My experience of managing native content tells me that it’s a dynamic tool with much unfulfilled potential. Because of its seamless integration into the editorial environment (one which readers have largely shown themselves favourable to), it provides opportunities for brand marketers they were never before able to enjoy in the properties of major publishers. Make native part of your long term strategic campaigns; if content is indeed king, then native advertising is the bejewelled royal carriage that carries it from brand to reader. (I should have been a copywriter).
- Read our white paper. In our Globe Content Studio document https://globelink.ca/whitepaper/ there’s a lot more useful information on metrics, reader attitudes, global context and strategies for native advertising than I can mention here.
Simon Beck is the Senior Editor, Globe Content Studio