Marketing is in transition. Banner ads don’t work. Interruption advertising is delivering diminishing returns and traditional advertising is a waste of money. Yet somehow product information still needs to “get out there”, brands still need to connect with their audience and marketers still need to make some money. As you’d expect, when a problem affects so many people a solution is not far from being found.
Native advertising is not new. Anyone who, in the last century, happened to come across the odd, blackboxed and clearly labelled as “advertising” advertorial post in a newspaper or a magazine, will instantly know what it’s about. Unlike traditional advertising that used a variety of formats to stand out from its surroundings and grab our attention native advertising matches in function and form its environment.
Google Ads is a classic example of native advertising. Clearly labelled as ads, they still match the function and form of organic search results. Content advertising that provides articles of value that appear around a brand, are native advertising. Forbes has had much success in this sphere with its Brand Voice platform, Vanity Fair and The Atlantic are dabbling in it and the New York Time is set to follow suit in the new year.
Native Advertising is not Advertising
Because native advertising, in the best chameleon fashion, closely emulates the form and function of the environment in which it appears, it succeeds in capturing the viewer’s attention in a fashion that is harder to bypass or ignore than any traditional means of advertising.
The focus here is not on telling the reader how great a product or a brand is, but in delivering value in what the reader finds to be useful, important or critical to know, in order to get something else done. The power of the approach comes from the most human thing of all: conversation.
At a time when brands know that they need to talk to their audience, engage with them and create interaction that is truly social and truly useful native advertising comes as the only possible solution.
Google is already experimenting with its own unique version of it with +Post Ads, that in a seamless integration of content and advertising, pull quality content from the company’s Google+ platform that brands have posted on their business page, creates an ad from it that can appear across Google’s two million sites strong Display Network and then uses the ad to draw the potential customer back into the Google+ environment where deep interaction can happen not just with the brand itself but also with all the other interested consumers that are active on the thread on the brand’s business page.
It’s an approach that’s a million miles away from the marketing philosophy that underlined the words “call to action” in the past and thought of marketing as a means to create an ever narrowing funnel that culminated in the inevitable outcome of a sale.
What Has Changed?
The reason brands and marketers have to take this circuitous, time-intensive route is because we, their customers, have changed. We no longer respond well to being told what to buy or what to do. We are well-informed, empowered and vocal and we want the brands we give our money to, to engage us intellectually as well as emotionally and to do so with authenticity.
For marketers looking to target their audience through native advertising the rules are simple:
1, Don’t Preach – Forget everything you know about Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Make the whole approach to selling anything be about Experience, Everywhere, Exchange and Evangelism.
2. Deliver the Goods – Whether you’re trying to create an experience, help your audience solve a problem or give them information that may potentially change their lives. Do, just that. Too much of the advertising of the past promised a lot and delivered little, relying on the herd effect and the inability of individual customers to speak up about their experiences with a product or a service, to work. This has changed. A single customer with a Twitter account and a story to tell can deliver untold damage to a brand. Native advertising, in order to work, really has to deliver great value.
3. Talk to your Audience – Advertising might have involved talking but it was always at us. It delivered flat statements that brooked no opposition. Native advertising is a conversation starter. It provides food for further thought, creates the beginning of further stories and is intended to be a channel for engagement, not advertising.
If these three rules sound like something your grandma might have advised you to do it’s because they are designed to help a brand build up its character, become reliable, transparent and, well, more honest. In a semantic web where authority and reputation are the requisites for building trust, native advertising kills a lot of birds with just one stone.
Easy to pull off, however, it’s not.
+Post Ads and the Semantic Web: