Act Natural

How Native Advertising Is Taking Over the Marketing World

In the contemporary media marketplace, consumers are more aware of — and averse to — traditional marketing than ever before. This is especially true on the internet. Web advertisement seems to be nearing its saturation point. It seems as though every site is festooned with loud banner ads, auto-playing videos constantly disrupting user experiences, and transparently targeted Adwords in every corner — it’s no wonder users have flocked to installing ad-blocking software. Just think about this for a second. When was the last time you appreciated an online advertisement, much less actually clicked on a banner ad?

As a result of consumer suspicion and exhaustion toward ordinary advertisements, “native advertisements” have risen in popularity and effectiveness. Native advertisements mimic the environment in which they appear, mixing seamlessly with adjacent content.

The most popularly cited and successful example of native advertising is not new at all: marketing guru David Ogilvy’s famous “Guinness Guide to Oysters” from 1950. The print ad shows several different types of oysters, with information-rich blurbs discussing their environments, flavors, and history. It looks like any good piece of attractive, well-written content, but if you look to the bottom of the page, you see the kicker: “All oysters taste their best when washed down with drafts of Guinness.” Now the reader is thinking of the pairing of Guinness and oysters, and the content was so high quality, they’re not even annoyed that they’re being advertised to.

That’s the key to successful native advertising — quality information. As Copyblogger CEO Brian Clarke writes, “A native ad is useful content more than a pitch. The thing you’re ‘selling’ must be contextually congruent with that approach ... [and] provide independent value in your native advertisement that inherently creates a desire to discover even more.” The trick is to provide content so compelling that when consumers glance around the article and notice the “sponsored content” tag, they don’t click away.

It’s vital that the content blends in perfectly with the surrounding user experience, but it’s also important that the path the advertisement follows is congruent to its message. In other words, if a fun post about the best ice cream flavors links to your corporate homepage, the jarring disconnect could turn off your prospect.

Native advertising allows you to engage with your target audience on their terms, free of the tricks consumers have been conditioned to sniff out from a mile away. If you’re able to inspire genuine interest from your audience, then there’s no limit to the level of engagement you can expect from them moving forward.