The Truth About Native Advertising

The Truth About Native Advertising
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David Ogilvy, famous for many quotes, said “People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad”. Lauren Quaintance, head of content for Story(ation) reminds us here native advertising is nothing new…

Long before anybody had heard of the term content marketing or native advertising, I was a magazine editor and we created content for brands. There wasn’t a week that went by when we didn’t get a brief from VW or Virgin asking us to create content to solve a business problem for them. They didn’t want advertorial about the VW’s turbo-charged engine; they wanted content they could sponsor that really put the interests of the audience first, and that subtly aligned with what their brand stood for.

Which is why when the term “native advertising” became a buzzword in 2011 those of us who worked in the print were perplexed as to why it was such a big deal. Native advertising – where a brand produces content that follows the natural form and function of the user experience of the platform – had been a critical part the magazine business model for decades. It was literally part of an editor’s job description and it was a task that, frankly, they either loved or loathed. (I happened to love the strategic challenge of generating ideas that moved the needle for brands that also worked for our audience. And the extra budget was nice too.)

What was different then though was the method of delivery and the mindset of the audience. Print was, by its nature, a “lean back” experience where you essentially had a captive audience reading a magazine at a breakfast table, at the hairdresser or in the bath. Sure, there were distractions (a delivery person might come to the door, or your kids might call out for help with their homework) but nothing quite like the all-pervasive digital narcotic that is your mobile phone.

Fast forward to 2017 and sponsored content or native advertising (call it what you will) needs to work harder to get attention but there is no reason if – done well – it can’t be as engaging as editorial. Marketing managers fret about their content being labelled “sponsored” or “paid” but to my mind they have nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the New York Times has said that based on metrics like unique visitors and time on page, the engagement with their native ads is as high as editorial. And half of these paid posts outperform editorial content on the NYTimes.com

Earlier this year a campaign Storyation created for Tourism New Zealand’s Premium team won Best Use of Native Advertising/Sponsored Content at the Content Marketing Institute Awards in the U.S. Targeting High Net Worth Individuals, we created a series of videos and articles about high-profile American foodies having iconic experiences in New Zealand such as learning to make a pavlova and ran them in paid space in the websites of luxury publications in the U.S. On Robb Report the content generated an average engagement time of 80 seconds – outstripping the engagement time for editorial content by 25 seconds.

Truth is, if the content is good audiences don’t care about the source. Whether you’re leaning on a publisher to reach a specific hard-to-reach audience – or better yet building an audience on your own platforms – the critical thing is to use an editorial lens to connect with audiences and solve a brand problem. And it doesn’t really matter what you call it.

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