As marketers, we’ve all heard the buzz about native advertising.
We’ve heard how it’s going to revolutionize advertising and begin to phase out traditional display ads. But despite all of the hype, it seems like everyone still has varying ideas of what native advertising actually is.
In today’s B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, I wanted to share my view on native advertising from a business intelligence perspective and the role I believe it has in the future of Internet marketing.
Question #1. How can we use native advertising?
What do you think of when you hear the term “native advertising?” An advertorial? Valuable content with a paid placement? Promoted tweets? Search engine marketing ads? Promoted stories and posts on social media networks?
Over the last year or so, I’ve heard countless different arguments about the true meaning of native advertising.
So, I asked myself, “Why does everyone seem to have such differing views?”
Why isn’t defining native advertising as black and white as some of the other marketing concepts we deal with on a daily basis?
Well, if you ask me, it’s because that’s essentially what a native advertisement is.
There is no current standard for native advertising, nor will there ever be one, and that’s the point.
A native advertisement is supposed to adapt to the content surrounding it in order to engage a potential customer by using their previously indicated interests. If there were set standards for native advertisements, that would essentially eliminate the advantage native ads are claimed to offer.
Which brings me to another point …
With all of the tools available today, we have the distinct advantage of knowing far more about our potential customers than marketers in generations past.
All of this knowledge allows us to create highly relevant content to attract the attention of those potential leads based on their decision to interact in a specific environment.
So, if there was a set formula, wouldn’t it essentially eliminate the ability we have to provide a user with highly relevant content that, if presented correctly, will engage them when they may have otherwise been disinterested?
Consequently, I would suggest marketers take a moment to stop focusing on a rigid definition of what native advertising is and isn’t to embrace what it can do for your marketing efforts given the adaptability native ads offer.
Question #2. Is native advertising really a new tactic?
One thing that has me confused is why everyone seems to think that native advertising is such a new and revolutionary concept.
When I first started to hear the buzz around native advertising, I immediately thought back to my high school cross country days.
I remembered reading an article in Runner’s World about precautions you can take to avoid injuries. As I flipped through the pages, there was an ad placed for Asics shoes that outlined what causes many common running injuries and how its shoes were scientifically designed to help prevent these problems.
I knew it was an advertisement, but it was also highly relevant to the content I was reading. I chose to divert my attention to the ad instead of the content around it.
So, I would argue that Asics’ idea of designing an ad that was relevant to the content surrounding it was essentially a “primitive” utility of native advertising.
Although my example is not a direct B2B example, it’s not a far reach to find native ad adoption in white papers or sponsored posts on Facebook that are also dispelling other myths about B2B social media use.
Question #3. Do our ads offer value and relevance?
Delivering valuable content that is relevant to your prospects is the key to a successful native ad campaign.
Producing valuable content that not only relates to the interest of the user, but is also relevant to your business should be the goal of every native advertising campaign you undertake.
So, what does a successful B2B native ad campaign look like exactly?
Well, according to Buzzfeed, it looks a lot like the consumerization of B2B marketing.
GE Aviation created a “flight mode” campaign designed to promote its presence at the 2013 Paris Air Show. When users visited BuzzFeed.com, the flight mode campaign transformed the Buzzfeed homepage into a grid of articles readers could “fly” over with a little plane icon.
Whenever users stopped on content they were interested in, they could hit the space bar and read the article in the normal view.
While a lot of the buzz was centered on the seemingly odd pairing of an ad campaign for an aviation giant’s presence at an air show running on an online publication, the campaign has been considered as a success so far, which brings us back to my point …
Offering quality content that is relevant is central to successfully using native ads as a B2B marketing tactic.
Question #4. What are the risks?
I see a future in native advertising, but from a business intelligence perspective, “Careful you must be when sensing the future.”
Yes, that was a quote from “Star Wars,” but Yoda’s advice actually holds a lot of truth when it comes to native advertising.
While I will not dispute there is a future in native advertising for B2B marketers, I wanted to offer caution to use the tactic of native ads responsibly and here’s why.
Imagine a scenario where your ideal prospect is researching a new product, let’s say software that lets small businesses share voice mails across cloud storage.
Eventually your prospect comes across an article outlining all the benefits of using Brand X’s voice mail clouding over Brand Y’s service.
If the information appears to be from a reputable source, the article may ultimately influence a prospect’s purchase.
But, what happens to Brand X’s credibility the moment the prospect realizes that “article” was actually a carefully constructed advertisement produced by Brand X attempting to appear as impartial, informative content?
Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, the brand is taking a big credibility gamble.
Although this is a completely hypothetical situation, problems could very well arise if companies try to disguise native ads as unbiased content.
Which brings me to my final question …
Question #5. Are we trying too hard?
I know … it goes against everything you have ever been taught.
But when it comes to native advertising, trying too hard to disguise your ads can be the difference between a successful campaign, and losing a prospect for good. My suggestion here is to avoid trying to “disguise” an advertisement as unbiased or pragmatic content.
If the content is native, you won’t have to disguise anything as it engages prospects without jeopardizing your organization’s credibility. I know I’d rather see a brand recognizing and embracing the potential of an advertisement than attempting to trick me by masking it behind the illusion of an unbiased expert.
So, to sum it all up, while I do think native advertising has proven its potential as a content marketing tactic and is now being adopted more frequently into B2B marketing, I want to reinforce that a native advertisement is just that – an ad.
Positioning it otherwise may very well damage the credibility of your business and drive away prospects.
But, if you embrace the ability you have to provide prospects with relevant and valuable content, there is potential for innovative new ways to turn native advertising campaigns into ROI.