Native Advertising: The how and why
By Dorian Benkoil, Teeming Media
3 Back to part I, Native Advertising: What it is and what it isn't
Why should a publisher bother with native advertising? The answer is pretty simple.
Marketers are spending money on native advertising. In 2013 media buyers expected to see an average increase of 12.6 percent in native ad spending compared to 2012, according to Solve Media.
Marketers are exploring native advertising because traditional display ads can be more easily ignored, and people are interested in a mixed stream of information.
"People today are used to getting news through their social feeds,” Buzzfeed editorial director Jack Shepherd told me. “On Facebook, for example, you might see an update from a family member, a picture of your friend's new baby, and then a news alert about a big news story, such as something from Syria, all in the same stream. So, they are fine with news being presented in that way."
And, by inference, they are fine with sponsored content that appears that way, too, as long as it’s relevant, useful, engaging and not boorish. Tim Cadogan, CEO of advertising exchange OpenX, talked at Advertising Week of a backpack manufacturer that gave buyers a month's worth of outdoor enthusiast information, furthering the customers' affinity for the backpacking brand.
Even if the absolute dollars are not yet huge, the concepts that surround native advertising – in-stream, conversational, and real-time marketing and brand journalism – overlap and touch on each other, and are important to understand and be able to sell so you can capture the dollars that are available.
"We used to say 'share of voice', but we now say 'share of content,'" said Jim McHugh, director of strategic business development at Gigante Vaz, a boutique advertising and marketing firm in New York. "Three-to-five years ago, we used to track ad spending in copiers. But now you see a company like Xerox is covering the world with content. They're not spending as much in advertising."
One of the chief difficulties, though, is how to provide content that's engaging and real-time in a cost-efficient way. Some of the best practices include:
Spur conversation that allows for the marketer's message to change over time. "The paradigm where ads are created through a crippled version of Mad Men, that take weeks, months, years of people working on and crafting the perfect message is over,” Paul Berry, CEO of social platform RebelMouse told me by phone. “We think the next paradigm is about content, and content marketing, and iterating through content constantly, worrying much less about the perfect slogan and brand message, instead creating content that connects with audiences."
Inject a newsroom mentality. To grab onto the conversation, conversational marketers need to be imbued with the sense of urgency and responsiveness that today's news people are. "It's a matter of transplanting your DNA, having the marketers understand the flow of the newsroom," Jim Kennedy, senior vice president of strategy and digital products for The Associated Press said at Ad Week. "It's a new muscle memory for them."
Prepare, prepare and prepare. Kennedy made an analogy to obituaries. "How do you think we, moments after someone dies, have an obituary about them on the wire?" Kennedy asked. Of course, it was prepared beforehand, as are many types of content for many iterations and scenarios. As the Oreo tweet was months in the making, so too can conversational marketing be.
Make it scale. Preparation gives your team the means to create great content and parcel it out in different ways so that a small team does work that hits thousands or millions of people without having to reinvent from scratch at every moment. "It needs to be plug and play, be creative and original, but easy enough to use over and over again," said Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president of advertising for The New York Times.
Help the marketer. Some marketers will want to create native advertising themselves, and may have the skill. But you may have to help them (and in the process improve your margins and become indispensable). The Dallas Morning News has a majority share in an advertising agency and has trained staff in how to provide the content marketing services clients want.
Find the stories. OK, fine, you may say, these are all great pointers. But if my advertiser is a local business, how much interesting is there to say, really? How much can a local chain of cleaners say, for example? Well, maybe a lot.
There are people there with stories: how they got into the business; perhaps where they're from; their families and children; the techniques and practices they use; the most interesting (biggest, smallest, dirtiest, weirdest) items they've ever cleaned and how they went about doing so; tips for people on how to clean things so they don't have to take them to the cleaners. When the cleaner asks, "How will this content marketing help my business?" you'll have an answer. Yes, a coupon for 10 percent off might bring someone in. Yet, if they have a feel for the business and its people, if the business is humanized through interesting stories, says things that are useful, they'll stick more in people's minds.
Having something to think about – and for the outgoing, to talk about – with a local business makes it that much more enticing. "I saw your piece on …" is a conversational starting point, and strengthens a relationship that's all that much better for the business, over time. Customers will have something to print out and post and put on their fridges and their social media, and businesses to gauge the effectiveness through all those measurement techniques discussed above.
Go to Part III, Native Advertising: A word on ethics 4
Dorian Benkoil is a digital media management consultant and entrepreneur, founder of Teeming Media and The MediaThon. A former reporter and foreign correspondent for Newsweek and The Associated Press, he was founding international then managing producer at ABCNews.com. A Fulbright fellow and MBA (with honors), he also teaches the digital media management course he created to graduate students in CUNY's Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.
First Published: October 16, 2013