There’s been a lot of talk about how advertising “doesn’t work any more” and how consumers have twigged on to the techniques that advertisers use.
It’s a hot-button topic in the marketing industry, with heated debate raging on about the topic.
What’s the real answer? Well, that’s the thing... no-one really knows for sure!
Some people say ads still work, pointing to their clicks and engagement numbers.
Others claim say it does nothing, pointing to their own metrics or claiming that many of the metrics of success are skewed or inconsistent.
And among proponents of the idea that advertising is dead-and-buried is another question: what comes next?
One of the contenders that’s often touted as the “saviour” of advertising is “native” advertising.
We know what you’re thinking: what is native advertising? Why is it called that?
And most importantly, how does it work and can it help your business get the word out?
Today, Melbourne’s digital marketing experts weigh in!
What is native advertising, and how does it work?
SImply put, “native” is a sort of advertising content that takes on the form and function of the platform in which it’s placed. It’s all about ads which replicate the style and consumption of regular content.
Think of it as a Trojan horse approach to advertising that disguises ads as something else. That means newspaper ads disguised as articles, online ads presented as blogs and so on. Odds are you’ve consumed your fair share of native advertising already without even realising it!
For an example of native advertising, look no further than this article by the New York Times.
At first glance, it’s an article about conditions in female prisons (and a pretty thorough one at that) - look closer however, and you might notice Netflix branding along the header.
All of a sudden, that Orange is the new Black banner across the bottom of the page is looking extremely suspicious!
Explaining the hype behind native
The logic behind native advertising is pretty simple to understand: with the increasing usage of ad blockers negating the impact of traditional ads, then the only place to put ads is in your website content.
With so much advertising on the internet, it’s easy for users to become blind to it. Case in point: banner ads.
The first banner ads had click-through rates of 44%.Over time, this has slowly dropped to a fraction of a percent.
By presenting it as the type of content that visitors are likely to consume normally, visitors are much more likely to actually look at it.
And since they’re more likely to consume it, they’re also much more likely to see the message - it’s as simple as that!
Native vs. content marketing
When you hear the phrase “native advertising”, does your mind automatically jump to content marketing?
If so, you’re not alone.
Many businesses and even some marketers also use the two interchangeably. However, it’s important to remember that native advertising =/= content marketing!
One distinction is that in a content marketing strategy, everything is distributed through your own channels and are 100% owned by you.
On the other hand, in most cases “native” ads is owned by the site it’s published on. WHile we’re not privy to whatever agreement was signed, the NYT article from above is almost certainly owned by the paper, and not Netflix!
Most important of all is the difference in goals.
Both aim to raise awareness, improve branding, bring in sales, build customer relationships and encourage purchases. It’s an ongoing process with wider, long-term goals: to build credibility for you and your business, and the two often work hand-in-hand..
However, content marketing is much broader area than native advertising. The goal of native is to make sales, and is often made of one-off ad spends.
Content marketing on the other hand is more long-term. It’s all about nourishing leads, keeping customers interested and building trust, both in your customers’ and Google’s eyes.
Yes, content comes into your SEO strategy too!
Most importantly, effective content can get you results without the need to pay for a placement.
On the other hand, native advertising by its very nature requires paying out-of-pocket!
The best of both worlds: combining native and content strategies
So they’re different. That doesn’t mean it’s all-or-nothing!
It’s easy to see how the two can work hand-in-hand. Native advertising supports your content marketing strategy by allowing you to spread your best content to an even wider audience.
This can include your website, guides, newsletters, infographics, videos, podcasts, and even this very blog!
Want to learn more? Get in touch with a digital marketing agency in Melbourne.
Does native advertising work?
It’s the million-dollar question.
And the answer, like many areas of digital marketing, is “it depends”.
On the one hand, research suggests that:
- Users are 53% more likely to look at native ads than display ads
- Native ads are much more likely to be shared, with 32% responding they would be willing to share it with friends and family
- Users report greater brand affinity and purchase intent with native advertising
All these are points in favour of native.
Not to mention, in some cases native advertising can generate inbound links to your website, which can have an effect on your SEO. More links = more credibility for your website in Google’s eyes, which in turn leads you your pages being placed higher on search results.
On the other hand however, people are good at picking out promotional material. Really good.
And for many, the knowledge that a piece of content is promotional in nature automatically discredits it completely. No-one likes being tricked, after all.
The obvious solution would be to integrate your ad into the host website even more.
But then you end up with the opposite problem, with users failing to make the connection to your brand or business at all!
When should I go native? Native advertising works when:
Your customers are highly influenced by content
This applies to both native advertising and content marketing!
Some products benefit from content. For others, it brings nothing to the table.
When you buy a car for example, you’re going to do your research on different models and their benefits.
When you buy a box of tissues on the other hand, you’re probably just going to pick the first pack off the shelf.
Before you commit to native advertising (or content marketing in general), evaluate whether your business is the type of purchase where potential customers are going to be seeking out a lot of information on their own.
Even the best content or native ad is useless if your customers have no reason to look at it.
It might sound like an obvious step, but you’d be surprised at how many forget to think about this!
It complements your content strategy
With native ads, a huge part of their success is how well they blend in with regular content.
And in our opinion, that doesn’t just refer to the host website - it also needs to match your regular content too!
If your content strategy focuses on creating video for instance, stick with video for your native ads. For maximum effect, you’ll also need to ensure that your native ads are being placed on sites that host plenty of video content themselves.
If you don’t have time to scout out sites on your own, there are plenty of native ad networks that specialise in getting your content posted to affiliate sites.
If your marketing strategy focuses on inbound marketing
- Outbound marketing: the traditional method of marketing, where you put your message out there to reach potential customers. This is more of a hard-sell approach, and includes traditional advertising, trade shows and cold calling.
- Inbound marketing: a marketing approach that focuses on drawing customers towards your site like a magnet, with a focus on connecting with people who are already interested in your business. Common tools include content marketing, social media and SEO, to name a few.
While native ads can work as part of either approach, in our opinion they’re far more effective as part of an inbound strategy.
The best native advertisements are the ones that don’t read like ads at all.
The best ones blend seamlessly with regular content, necessitating a soft-sell approach.
And that’s where the problems start.
Outbound marketing is inherently a hard-sell approach.
Frankly, it’s very difficult to fit native ads into such a strategy. Its biggest advantage is the fact that it’s hard to distinguish from a regular post - making your native ads overly “sales-y” negates that completely!
Click here for a more detailed look at the differences between inbound and outbound marketing.
Still confused? Talk to a digital marketing agency in Melbourne!
We’re going to be upfront: native advertising isn’t for everyone. While there are some businesses for whom this approach can bring in heaps of leads, it isn’t a silver bullet.
Curious? Want to learn more? Eager to debate the ethics of bundling disguised ads into your content marketing strategy? Get in touch with a digital marketing agency in Melbourne - sound off either here, or call us on 1300 88 64 50.