Dave Link

Native Advertising is Just Good Advertising

By: Dave Link | December 26, 2013 | 

Native Advertising is Just Good AdvertisingBy Dave Link

There has been an immense amount of discussion in the marketing and public relations industries surrounding “native advertising” during the past few months.

In case you’ve missed the deluge of posts, this new and groundbreaking type of advertisement is set to change the way we all market our products.

Or is it?

Native advertising is just well thought-out content with a focus on how users consume it on any given platform.

Robert Rose published an excellent feature on the topic earlier this fall.

Native Advertising is Just Good Advertising

When I say “good advertising,” I’m not talking about ads that have gone viral or that take advantage of the latest and greatest smartphone tech.

I’m talking about ads that fit almost seamlessly into the landscape of any given platform.

Ads that fit in so well users often won’t even recognize them as ads.

Isn’t this the type of marketing to which we all aspire?

This approach to native advertising is really born out of ad blindness. We’re all bombarded with so many ads day in and day out that we tune them out in favor of things that really matter to us: Photos, tweets from friends and mentors, and, according to YouTube, cat videos.

But, while we’re consuming the things that really matter to us, we’re also tuning out multiple banner ads that pop up alongside of our news feeds and news articles.

In all honesty, when was the last time you voluntary clicked on a banner or pop-up ad?

Enter Native Advertisement

To blast past the blindness, we now have the opportunity to publish our messages into the news feeds of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

All this ‘new’ form of marketing has done is present us with the opportunity to do what we should’ve done from the start: Publish ads that fit the medium and don’t stick out like a sore thumb. You wouldn’t publish an ad formatted for the web in a magazine, would you? So, why would anyone assume ads on Twitter shouldn’t be different than those on Facebook?

Maybe that’s why some companies and firms are having difficulty with native ads. The larger the organization, the more likely they’re relying heavily on scalable processes. While you can share the same story over numerous channels, this platform-centric approach to crafting a story can require a much more time intensive approach.

The Instagram Example

I can’t think of a more personal feed advertisers will try to break into than an Instagram user.

To get any sort of long term buy-in from users, Instagram ads will have to appear no different than that of any user’s post.

Warby Parker does an excellent job of mixing the art of Instagram photography with effective branding.

Take a look at the NASA Instagram feed for an example of how to blend with the everyday user.

Without Utility, it’s Just Another Ad

Who wouldn’t find the Curiosity’ s latest panoramic view of Mars captivating?

NASA takes it a step further, attaching an in-depth description to provide a history lesson in miniature.

Not only do they snag you with an interesting image, but they’ve taught you something that will likely have you seeking their posts in the future.

Location-based Native Advertising

Let’s look at another example, this time in Foursquare.

When using the app, the platform now presents hyper-relevant ads based on the type of venue you’ve checked into. While this is hardly a seamless integration, the utility of the ad often trumps its somewhat intrusive nature.

A perfect example: While checking in at my home, I’m presented with a Samsung ad reminding me not to forget my phone/wallet, and promoting the company’s new Galaxy Gear line. For gadget nuts like myself, that’s extremely effective.

It Has to Be Valuable

Ultimately, if you’re not putting together social ads with a purpose, or including engaging content to back them up, then it doesn’t matter if your ads are native, non-native or packed full of 100 Grumpy Cats.

If your ad isn’t useful and valuable – no matter what your user’s definition of value is – it’s not going to hold water.

About Dave Link

Dave is the chief technology evangelist at PaySAFE, where he oversees marketing, social media, and customer experience groups. Based in Omaha, a career in the communications, public relations, social media, marketing, and non-profit fields has helped him to identify and creatively tell the story behind any organization. Outside of office hours you'll likely find him spending time with his wife, catching up on college football, and kicking back with friends and family while sipping on a dark, fermented beverage.

  • Ah, great post! I’ve actually been exploring the realm of native advertising myself lately, and I have to say I solely agree with you on utility. 
    The reason why Instagram is such a powerful marketing platform for native ads is because what the companies share (unless it’s an actual ad) is truly content in itself. That’s what people want to see more of. Native ads should be more about providing VALUE, not relaying yet another ad message. 
    Native ads should be a break from the standard advertising messaging. It should be a chance to show another side of your company — a human interest side of it. 
    Thanks for writing this, Dave! I really enjoyed it.

  • I agree that there’s a terrific opportunity to shift to useful messaging versus hyped promotion,  and that it can be done well… but I get concerned when more supposedly journalistic outlets offer up the credibility of their mastheads to barely disclosed advertorials (I believe that the New York Times just announced such an offering; others, like Forbes, have been diluting their journalistic brand for some time now).  To avoid damaging consumer trust – which barely exists for traditional paid advertising, at least as I read surveys like the Edelman Brand Trust Barometer – I think we will all be wise to a) embrace full disclosure of the paid status of these ads and b) re-imagine what an ad can be… namely, a paid platform for delivering useful and helpful content that, wherein we concentrate on first serving as a better route to ultimately selling.

  • creativeoncall Absolutely! The very thing that makes these types of ads effective are also the point that could potentially mislead viewers. I think most platforms – thus far anyway – have done a decent job of labeling sponsored content as just that, but all it takes is a few apples to ruin the reputation for the rest of us. Thanks for reading!

  • JRHalloran Thanks for reading, James! And you’re dead on in pointing out that the crux of these ads is the content. Without something engaging and built for the platform, native ads are no different that pop-ups or banners.

  • cparente

    I’m rooting for some kind of native advertising to succeed, b/c I want quality online publications to survive. And I’m all about adding value and telling an engaging story. 
    But similar to first comment, I find it interesting you don’t mention transparency at all in your piece. If readers/viewers feel deceived, this approach will die in the cradle.
    Edelman put out a useful report in August on what they called sponsored content. Link here if that’s OK: http://chrisparente.com/2013/08/04/edelman-opines-on-sponsored-content/

  • cparente You’re absolutely right about transparency. I think my lack of mentioning it is rooted in the fact that it’s a first thought for me (working in PR and marketing) and, on the whole, most platforms are doing a fairly good job of self-policing. While there aren’t giant flashing notices, I think there’s been a decent balance struck in marking what content is sponsored or paid and what content isn’t. 
    Like any new ad platform there will always be dust ups around proper disclaimers as usage increases, but overall I think the industry has done a good job of adjusting when legitimate claims of misleading ads have popped up. However, there’s always room for improvement!

  • THIS: “Ultimately, if you’re not putting together social ads with a purpose, or including engaging content to back them up, then it doesn’t matter if your ads are native, non-native or packed full of 100 http://www.grumpycats.com/.”

    Except for maybe the Grumpy Cats part….

    But I love this statement because it’s so true for ANY communications platform. And far too often everyone wants to jump on the new golden bandwagon, without an understanding of the purpose for doing so.

     This is a great review of what can be a powerful platform, IF (because there is always an if)……..

  • dave_link creativeoncall Totally agree with you both!

  • p.s. it makes me laugh so hard that when I pin this the image that comes up is a cat humping another cat…..built in native advertising for spay/neuter I guess 🙂

  • LauraPetrolino Admittedly, I do love Grumpy Cat, haha! But you’re right, if there isn’t some sort of utility or purpose behind your comm. then there’s really no point in putting it out there in the first place.

  • Love this post, dave_link! If native advertising is going to have a future (and I think it will!), the disclosures need to be ironed out and advertisers need to pick up their game and present effective sponsored/native content. 

    I still haven’t figured out how brands sponsoring BuzzFeed listicles is a good strategy without an obvious tie-in to the industries/markets they serve, but BuzzFeed certainly isn’t saying no to the money!

    More than anything else, native advertising and the like emphasize the need to provide real, tangible value to a user or they’ll just render themselves irrelevant and spammy in less than two clicks.

  • jasonkonopinski Bingo! I’m not sure the value of BuzzFeed lists (aside from shareability) either, but there are always superfluous items that are eventually weeded out as tactics mature. Thanks for reading!

  • Hi dave_linkI agree it is very hard to get your product or ad seen. Not sure I agree with your example of Instagram because to me then sponsored tweets, facebook sponsored stories, and even TV and Radio ads would be considered Native Advertising. The fact the Instagram ad says Sponsored screams AD to me.

    I think a better example is when ginidietrichwrote about Jay Peak. Jay and Hayward Pools (Pin your Pool) did two great campaigns where people created the ads themselves and posting to Instagram and Pinterest respectfully. Those are using the platforms and you can’t tell the user generated content is actually an ad for those brands. Very hard to pull off btw.

    My own opinion is ‘Native Advertising’ is part of a long line of catch phrases marketing agencies/and personal brands use to write books, give speeches, advise on…where the actual ‘definition’ has been around for centuries if not milennia (Social Business for example)

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich Great points, Howie. I think you and I simply differ on our definition of user generated content vs. native ads. The Instagram campaign that you mention would fall more into my definition of UGC as the company didn’t place the ad itself but prompted consumers to do the legwork; whereas you’re absolutely right that sponsored stories and tweets are exactly that – sponsored.
    In my mind, TV and radio are completely different beasts unto themselves, but you could also argue that those platforms would do well to take hints from the early adopters of native social ads. Spotify, for example, does a great job working with advertisers to make it seem as though their ads are actually songs on the user’s playlist. I’ve been caught by surprise more than once when a catchy lead-in actually turns into a pitch for State Farm or Mr. Clean.

    As far as your comment to labeled Instagram or FB ads screaming ad, there are ways to combat that notation. Users are much more likely to ignore that notation if the content is useful or engaging. If advertisers simply resize a print ad and slap it into a social stream they deserve to be ignored because those ‘heavy pitch’ ads don’t work in the social space… at least not when they’re competing against topics users genuinely care about like family and friends.

    And I would agree with you in that native advertising is simply new vernacular for an old skill – creating good ads. In essence, that’s what I was trying to get across in my post; that native advertising is just good advertising put to a new platform. But as mediums change, labeling for traditional practices applied to new spaces is almost a given.

  • Well, its good having a post like this that explains what Native advertising is and how it is going to benefit marketers. The concept of native advertising being a good advertising is simply explanatory. Still, no matter what way we look at it, embracing the issue of valuable content should not be denied. 

    in the social  sharing and content aggreting website for Internet marketers – kingged.com, the above  comment was shared where this post was found. 

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor 


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  • dave_link jasonkonopinski The best Buzzfeed sponsored post I saw was by Disney. Was something like 10 things you didn’t know you could do at Disney Parks, or something like that. Made you want to go to Disney again 🙂
    The key to great native advertising is killer content – if you can tell a great story, consumers won’t care if it’s sponsored, branded content or not. They just want value and be entertained.

  • dave_link

    SproutSocial Thanks for the share!

  • I agree that I have yet to click on a sidebar or banner ad. Currently, I’m blowing past most of the native advertising…but I might have clicked on one or two because they were relevant (mostly around nutrition and fitness).

    However, those native ads only worked on me as the consumer part of B2C. I haven’t clicked on anything B2B. Since my own product/services are B2B, I wonder if my own target customer would be doing the same thing?

    As a result, I am focusing on our owned content, and trying to get some “earned” media…but we have invested very little in paid media.

  • dbvickery Good points, Brian! I would say the lion’s share of native ads that I’ve clicked on have also been the C side of B2C. I also feel that decision may be platform specific. For example, I’m much more inclined to click a B2B native ad on a site like LinkedIn than I am on Facebook, but that may be due more to a personal choice to keep Facebook more for friends and family.
    And I think you’re dead on to still focus the bulk of your time on owned content. That owned content is a great resource that you can easily turn into native ads when the time is right or simply continue to build your own reputation as an industry authority.