Native advertising is classified as “an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience.” Seems simple enough right? If you’re involved in digital marketing in any way, you’ve heard about native advertising but do you know how to do it right? Members and guests of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) had the opportunity to hear from two native advertising pros, Craig Key from Space150 and Joe Germscheid of Carmichael Lynch.

Throughout both presentations there was a key element that kept popping up. Don’t do native advertising unless the content your brand is providing actually fits within the user’s context. This seems easy enough but listening to these two pros get down to the nitty gritty of native advertising revealed much more about the trend.

Most digital marketers have traditionally separated owned, earned and paid media whereas now, native advertising fits right in the center of those three. Essentially a brand/agency almost ‘tricks’ a user into viewing or interacting with an ad. Craig Key used Buzzfeed as a great example of native advertising, a user will be taking a quiz, reading an article and you barely notice it’s an ad and sponsored by a brand.

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As you can see in this example, the highlighted section of the page is a sponsored post by Skittles that fits within normal Buzzfeed content and works within what users are expecting to see when they visit Buzzfeed. Key also pointed out that not only should the native ad appear to be existing content but once the user interacts with the ad, the content should align with what they’re expecting.

One poor example of a native ad is a car insurance quote ad that looks like other sports stories on Yahoo. Your ad should look like the other content on the page and shouldn’t jump out to the user as an ad. Additionally, if the content is great, it should be there but if it’s so-so content and simply performs as an advertisement, users feel tricked and you lose trust.

Joe Germscheid had some great advice for people looking to test the waters in native advertising.

What works well:

      • A deep understanding of the match between the client audience and the media partner’s audience.
      • Negotiating with clear direction and sharing brand’s objective.
      • Cultivating cross-platform ideas.
      • Know when to walk away.
      • Aligning existing media habits of the target user.

What doesn’t work:

      • Content that is not engaging or relevant to customers.
      • Content for the sake of content.
      • A collection of small one-off pieces.
      • An ad!

Native advertising has been revolutionary for large brands such as Jack Links and Buffalo Wild Wings because they have smart strategists like Key and Germscheid working for them. They understand what users want and need as well as what works and what doesn’t. Native won’t work for everyone but it’s certainly something to think about.

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