Native advertising. Chances are you hear this phrase all over the place. That’s because it’s such an important component of the modern advertising conversation, especially when it comes to digital.
So…what exactly is native advertising?
First off, let’s get one thing straight. Native advertising is not the same as content marketing. Even though they do share some similarities, they are actually two very different things, but that’s a whole other conversation (or blog, maybe). We digress.
Now that we’ve gone through one thing native advertising IS NOT, let’s talk about what native advertising IS.
Native advertising is essentially a form of paid media (remember, paid media is the kind we actually shell out money for). It can come in many different forms. A common form of native ad you probably encounter on a daily basis is Facebook sponsored ads and posts (Image 1). Any time you open your Facebook app or visit the Facebook site, you likely see these ads as you scroll through your news feed.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself—isn’t this just a display ad? To that, I offer a resounding, Godzilla-sized NO. This type of advertising is distinctly different from those display ads that everyone tends to avoid like the plague.
How is it different, and what’s so great about native advertising?
Most of us are familiar with what the advertising industry calls clutter. Essentially, clutter just refers to the ubiquity and resulting over-saturation of advertising messages in our daily lives. In other words, there are so many ad messages out there that we tend to not notice most of them.
Native advertising is powerful in the sense that it gives us a couple important methods of cutting through the clutter. One, it doesn’t get in the way, and two, it provides the user with some sort of meaningful experience.
It Doesn’t Barge In
We couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve been scrolling through our Facebook feeds and found interesting articles only to discover that it was actually a sponsored post. This brings us to one of the defining features of native advertising. They are called native ads for a reason. They blend in with their surroundings and take the shape of the publication, social platform or media in which they’re placed. They become less noticeable because they disguise themselves as actual content.
Consider native in comparison to television. Imagine you’re sitting down on Sunday night, prepped and ready to dive into this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” (or “Scandal” if that’s more your thing). Let’s say last week left on a cliffhanger and the first segment of this week’s episode is going to determine your mood the rest of the week (you know it’s true). That first scene transitions in and you suffer through the best-worst few minutes of your life only to be rudely interrupted about five minutes in because it’s time for a commercial break.
Native advertising avoids that type of interruption by blending in and flying below the radar. It isn’t until you look specifically for that disclaimer (sponsored, paid, etc.) that you can truly tell the difference between actual content and sponsored content. It doesn’t annoy users the way that traditional ads can.
Native ads don’t just avoid barging in visually. They are also careful about producing content that fits the context. Notice how we called the articles we clicked on “interesting.” We didn’t click on those articles because we liked the advertising messages. We clicked on the articles because the titles or pictures caught our eyes, and the content was in line with our interests.
We’ve said it before and will continue to say it –it’s about conversation. You’re not just throwing an ad message out there and hoping it connects with customers. You’re choosing a very specific audience and finding a way to communicate with them. No one wants to be talked at. With native advertising, you’re saying: okay, what is my audience interested in, and how can I connect those interests to my brand? What would make my brand meaningful to them?
So, jump in and take advantage of native advertising opportunities. It doesn’t just give you a way to reach your consumers with an advertising message. You have the opportunity to create meaningful connections that can eventually turn into brand love and loyalty.
If you’re interested in learning more about native advertising, you can check out the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) “IAB Native Advertising Playbook.”