Before digging any deeper into this topic, I first would like to explain exactly what native advertising is! It has created a lot of hype, especially as of recently. Many people are unaware or misguided on what exactly this form of media is. You’ve probably heard several different answers from native advertising being defined as advertorial, branded entertainment or even content marketing. Confusing, right?
Don’t worry, I’m here to break it down for you. The best definition that I found that was helpful was from a company called Sharethrough.
n. Native advertising is a form of paid media where the advertising experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.
Form: Native ads match the visual design of the experience they live within, and look and feel like natural content.
Function: Native ads must behave consistently with the native user experience, and function just like natural content.
So, now that you have a brief understanding of what native advertising is, it’s time to discuss this baffling form of paid media. I promise, by the end of this, you will be a lot more knowledgable on the topic and can spread the word to your colleagues, clients and friends that have heard the term, but still might be uncertain of what or how they can benefit from it.
The main purpose of native advertising is to reach your consumers with branded content in a non-interruptive, aggressive fashion. This form of advertising has been a hot topic in the industry since many brands are looking for ways on how to integrate it into their marketing strategies.
Why is this becoming such a big thing?
It’s simple. Consumers don’t like being sold to; instead they want a product that relates to them and therefore, possess a need for it. It’s important for brands to break through the noise and get noticed by their consumers and with so much advertising being thrown at them on the daily; they often tend to tune out traditional advertisements. If you think about it, just how many TV ads do you actually watch? And how many YouTube ads do you ignore that play before your video? I would take a shot in the dark and say a majority of you do not pay much (if any) attention to these commercials.
The method of native advertising isn’t shocking since advertisements have always tried to portray the message of a product being a needand not a want. In fact, native advertising dates back as far as the 1900s! However, the method in which this is being done is what’s new within the digital space. The best way to connect with your consumers is to provide content from your brand that brings value to them. Unlike the pop-banner or pre-roll advertising that often gets blended in with the rest of the online noise by interrupting the user experience, native advertising offers consumers a choice to interact with the branded content…without selling to them directly.
The digital publisher, BuzzFeed and pet food brand, Friskies created the “Dear Kitten” ads on the brand’s wet pet food and it’s a brilliant example of native advertising that was done correctly. Strictly because it doesn’t feel like an ad, rather it is telling a story. The other day I actually went ahead and watched every single “episode” (I love cats, don’t judge!). Friskies is now getting much more exposure without directly selling their product. Win-Win!
The story speaks for itself, check it out:
So, how big of a deal is native advertising, won’t it just become another fad?
It looks like native advertising is here to stay people, and it will continue to grow! According to Marketing Magazine, eMarketer predicts native advertising will grow to the size of the entire digital ad spend in Canada. Or, $4.5 billion. Yes, you read correctly, I wrote billion! That’s a whole lot of zeros and it goes to show just how much this form of paid media is in demand. Essentially, if you’re not on the native advertising train, you better get on board, and quick!
Does native advertising impact public relations?
I have read a few different articles stating that native advertising is a threat to public relations since they are “paid editorial” rather than the traditional “earned media”.
In my professional opinion, this is not the case. If anything, native advertising is another weapon for public relation professionals to have in their playbook. We are always looking for creative ways to get our clients stories out there and give them exposure, so this is just another method in doing so to get the media talking about them.
Public relations is social and the most well-known social platforms monetize with native, in-feed ads, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram etc. Have you noticed sponsored ads in your feeds? Because if you have, that is another form of native advertising, especially if it’s done correctly. These ads are seamlessly unified into a user’s feed and are practically indistinguishable for organic content because of how they look, feel and function by telling a story, not selling one. Best of all, these ads are targeted to a specific audience that has an interest in your service or product. If you position the content correctly, there is a very good chance they will begin to engage with your brand. That’s the whole point of social media! You’re there to engage by expressing your brands quirky, fun personality that your audience can relate with and ultimately makes your brand stand out from the bombarding sea of online advertising.
Some of the leading publishers have also jumped on the native advertising bandwagon as they are offering sponsored content on behalf of brands. This is another form of storytelling however, it is paid and sponsored content. This is where the thought that PR’s role in getting earned media is threatened by anyone being able to pay money to have their story sponsored.
This might be true, but the fact remains that good PR can play a better game. As mentioned before, native advertising…when done correctly, is more about storytelling rather than pitching a product. That is what differentiates and makes this form of advertising unique. You are putting the consumer in the drivers seat by providing relatable content that they can connect with.
Public relations firms provide additional input to the paid space since they look at stories differently and are always on the ball with creative ways to get the media to talk about you. This requires a certain type of mindset as we understand the news agenda and what makes for a great story, not just another sales hook. Remember when I mentioned that consumers don’t like being sold to? That same framework of thinking applies for this example. You have to have a story that demonstrates what makes your brand stand out, with content that the consumer will trust. PR has the ability to accelerate paid and earned media to their client’s advantage; therefore, by using both they have more of a chance of getting that story out there in a trusted fashion.
Here is a great editorial where the New York Times and Netflix teamed up to create this engaging native ad about women inmates to promote Netflix’s original series, “Orange is the New Black”. What made this so unique? The article is written in a raw, journalistic style without pushing that it was about the show.
At the end of the day, the main focus for any brand is to remain authentic. You want to be able to tell a story, a story that represents your brand, but a story that is also relatable to your audience. If your story has a natural feel, the chances of building trust and engaging with your consumers is much higher compared to making them feel that they are being sold to. What is your brands story and how does it stand out to your consumers?