Native advertising is the strategy of creating ad materials that fit seamlessly into the environment where they’re placed in, like magazine ads that look and read like articles or fun, informative Facebook posts that link to a particular brand.

Especially in today’s online sphere, native advertising is proving highly effective, generating twice as much attention and click-through as banner ads. There are a lot of reasons viewers prefer native ads to any other kind of advertising content.

Let’s look at a few of those reasons and examples of their smart execution.

They don’t distract

Modern audiences, especially on the Internet, are exceptionally good at ignoring advertisements. Old standards like pop-ups and automatic redirection see click-away times in fractions of seconds, while a combination of trained eyes and ad-blocking software make it so banners and keyword ads don’t even appear. In short, people don’t want their content to be interrupted. That’s why native advertising is so effective.

Rather than being a distraction, they offer valuable content to the viewers. Consider the early 2014 Facebook video ad from Head and Shoulders that features famously coiffed NFL player Troy Polamalu. It looks exactly like a regular news feed post with an embedded video, inviting users to not only watch, but comment, share,and click-through. It’s funny and viewers get to choose it instead of having it forced on them.

They’re honest

Native ads respect their viewers, perhaps more than any other kind of advertising. They offer something fun, informative, or social without asking for any opt-in, generating good will at the same time as they encourage viewers to share the content (and the brand along with it).

A recent campaign by toilet tissue company Charmin didn’t try to hide the brand, opting instead to let viewers make a connection on their own. The campaign offered informative bathroom reading material (about bathroom reading) to viewers with a nod to the Charmin brand. That’s a great way to target potential consumers by offering something they already want and forming a strong association between that positive experience and the brand.

They know their audience

Native ads are built around a deep understanding of the placement environment, stemming from a fair amount of time within the community of viewers and the exploration of the things they want. As is often the case, this is especially true online. The subject matter of the ad doesn’t (and often shouldn’t) refer directly to the product or brand. Instead, it should offer the product’s target demographic something they’ll find useful.

For example, if a satellite Internet provider wanted to increase product awareness among tech-savvy consumers, a native ad featuring “23 Hilarious Technology Fails” paired with an offer to find your plan for service will be more effective than a direct call to action landing at a sales page or a link to content that the demographic won’t find interesting.

They’re easy to share

In 2013, Will Ferrell went on one of the most memorable and unusual marketing campaigns for his movie Anchorman II. Instead of just running traditional commercials, posters, and billboards, Ferrell took on the persona of his character, news anchor Ron Burgundy, and actually read the news at local TV stations around the country. Along with other unexpected public appearances, this campaign generated a lot of widely shared content.

The real power wasn’t in the original native ad, in this case the locally broadcast news report, but the uploading of those videos to sites like YouTube so they could be shared outside of the local market. Viewers doing the leg work of spreading the message is the Holy Grail of advertising, and native advertising is the most natural driver of word-of-mouth in the business.

However, the power of native advertising can also be used to raise awareness for important economic and environmental issues. For example, Studio Roosegaarde’s Smart Highway project has been successful in showing the public a glimpse at the future of sustainable roadways. The Dutch design company is banking on the power of social media and viral marketing to share and spread the word of their ambitious ideas in green technology.

The really exciting thing about native advertising is that, thanks to all the above factors, it’s not likely to grow less effective over time. Because the entire idea is to tailor the ad to the kinds of content already present in a given environment, it just means the form of the content will change, but the strategy will remain the same. Fun, informative, and sharable content connects with people on a deep level and gives them a great reason to evangelize for a brand.

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