Peter Conti, VP of Sales and Marketing for Local Media Association, recently hosted a webinar about the hot-hot topic of native advertising. Some say native ads are new, and some say they’re just a repackaged version of the same old advertorials and strategies that have been around for years.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding native ads. And for debates to exist, there has to be something important on the line — there is. Native ads sometimes walk the thin line of deception; more important, they work.
Conti, who held the position of Media Outlet Consultant for Borrell Associates for 11 years before joining Local Media Association in 2012, opens his webinar with a discussion about traditional versus native ads. Traditional digital advertising loses favor consistently because banners and popups interfere with the user experience. They are perceived as an annoyance by many of the people they’re designed to engage. Native ads work differently, without interrupting the user. They are less of an annoyance, and they perform better.
More of the audience, 25% more, stops and pays attention to native ads than banners. Further, the audience looks at native ads more, Conti says, “checking them out 4.1 times per session” as opposed to 2.7 times for banner ads.
Conti Explains What Native Advertising Is
Native advertising integrates seamlessly into the style, voice, appearance, and even the functionality of the websites on which they appear. Instead of a popup window or a separate sidebar filled with ads, Conti explains that they become part of the whole experience. They look like they belong, and that’s because they were designed from the ground up to belong.
Examples are “sponsored by” ads, promoted tweets, promoted video, paid discovery at StumbleUpon, ads on search engines, and more. Lots more.
The Big Debate
Almost every article you’ll read about native advertising contains at least some mention of controversy. Conti addressed that using an example from The Atlantic. The Church of Scientology is controversial enough on its own. Paired with native advertising, it spelled a bit of a disaster, both for the church and for The Atlantic.
The ad was perceived by many as a real story, and then the “ad” discovery was made. The audience, doing what audiences do, left comments on the ad, and many of them were not polite. The result was bad press for The Atlantic, since the ad was viewed as controversial for subject matter and for perceived deception, and bad press for the Church of Scientology.
Transparency is an important factor with native advertising. If the audience feels deceived, the ads will probably be unsuccessful. More than that, the publication and the ad partner lose credibility.
Conti Uses The Denver Post as a Good Example
The Denver Post has a native advertising strategy that’s worthy of admiration. From Conti’s description, it’s designed to address the process each step of the way from merely a campaign idea to launch.
When a campaign is considered, there are meetings with the ad partner where they collaborate on strategy. Both the Post and the ad partner are involved from beginning to end, and working that closely together seems to benefit both parties.
Rounding up his webinar, Conti breaks down native advertising into what he calls its matrix, which consists of four elements. There is branded content, sponsored texts, advertorials, and contextual ads. Each element works in a certain environment and reaches a certain type of audience.
“Everyone is looking for a way to insert brand content so that it makes the user more open and favorably disposed to the commercial message,” says Conti. He suggests that when you can provide the audience with a seamless experience, you’ve found the Holy Grail.
Listen to this informative webinar, and decide for yourself. Is native advertising right for you? And if so, how can you package it to intrigue and engage your audience?