What is native advertising?

“The core [to good native advertising] is a clear understanding of the target group’s interests. If you know these, it is much easier to define the right content, the channels, the formats you need for a successful campaign.”

Karsten Krämer, Director, C3

The term ‘native advertising’ is about using paid advertising that matches the look, feel and function of the media format in which they appear. You can often find native advertising in:

  • Social media feeds, or as
  • Recommended content on a web page.

As opposed to display or banner ads, native ads don’t have the look and feel of typical advertisements. These ad types look like part of editorial on the page.

DSM Digital school of marketing - native advertising

The key to native advertising

The crucial aspect to native advertising is that it is non-disruptive. In theory, if an ad is “disruptive” it is effective because it’s unexpected, breaking through all that noise. However, if an ad is non-disruptive it does not – or tends not to – cause a disruption.

Native advertising is paid content

Examples of native advertise are:

  • Articles,
  • Infographics, and
  • Videos.

If a content producer can make it, companies can buy it and publishing platforms can promote it then the content has the ability to qualify as native advertising.

How does a native advertisement differ from an advertorial that appears in a print magazine or newspaper? The content must align with the publication or site’s editorial style. This is if it’s to be considered a true native advertisement.  It addition it must also provide the kind of information that the publication’s audience typically expects.

Native advertisements are often difficult to spot

This is because these types of advertisements often blend in with the “organic” content extremely well. Trying to spot native adverts is made even more challenging by the fact that there are no defined rules or guidelines on how publishers must label native ads. Transparency standards vary from one publication to another.

DSM Digital school of marketing - native advertising

A great native advertising example

Together with Upworthy, BuzzFeed is the most effective viral hit factory on the Internet. They have recently opened their platform up to advertising. Here’s an example of BuzzFeed “Community” pages, featuring brands like publishing giant HarperCollins:

As it is possible to see for the above picture, posts made to the Community section of BuzzFeed have “not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed’s editorial staff”. This means that HarperCollins (and Mini, and Pepsi, and the other brands that publish content at BuzzFeed) have simply paid for the privilege of getting their brand in front of BuzzFeed’s audience. Apart from the prominent HarperCollins logo above the social share buttons, there’s little to set this apart from BuzzFeed’s regular content.

Why It Works

Time factors into why this native advertising example is so successful. Firstly, the post was published in late June, coinciding well with graduation season. Secondly, the basis of the post was teacher David McCullough, Jr.’s famous “You Are Not Special” commencement speech, which itself went viral.

The post adheres strictly to BuzzFeed’s popular animated .GIF/listicle post format, making it easily digestible, and the headline is impeccably crafted for BuzzFeed’s audience, as you’d expect. There’s very little obvious connection between the client (a major publishing house) to the content, aside from the implied relationship between college graduates and books. This means that the advertisement is seen as a “soft sell”. This is easier for audiences to stomach than forceful product placement.

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