Does Native Advertising Have a Place in Your Digital Marketing?
Have you ever been reading a piece of content or watching a video online and wondered if it was an ad? In today’s digital marketspace, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between an ad and a piece of non-sponsored content. This digital marketing trend is called native advertising. With marketers developing and deploying their most creative tactics for breaking through the clutter to reach users with their marketing message, you often need superhero-like powers to differentiate between ads and non-ads.
What is Native Advertising?
Native advertising refers to the method of blending advertisements into different types of content that users are searching for, or encounter in their news or social feeds. Often referred to as “sponsored content”, native advertising blurs the lines between an actual piece of content and an advertisement. These ads are generally content-focused, with the goal of solving the need of a user, while promoting a product or service. The most popular native ads solve the needs of users by presenting the advertising brand’s product/service as the solution.
As consumers have become increasingly ad-averse, native advertising has become a necessary tactic in digital marketing. However, using native advertising is a delicate balancing act. Users who encounter a native ad masked as a piece of content that doesn’t provide value may feel tricked and could develop a dissenting opinion towards the brand. The non-disruptive nature of native ads give companies the opportunity to help users form opinions about certain topics through supportive content without users immediately knowing company is the one helping form this opinion.
Content Marketing vs. Sponsored Content
As the popularity of content marketing continues to increase, users are becoming more accustomed to consuming content that was developed by brands. While content marketing and sponsored content both involve brands paying to develop content for users, there is a nuanced difference between the two.
Content marketing is the development of content that users are actively seeking out. For example, if someone is searching for the best places to paddle boarding this summer, a user might find themselves on a webpage created by a popular lake resort reading an article about the 10 Best Stand Up Paddle Spots in Arizona. It’s obvious why a resort would write an article like this, since the content directly links users to the services the resort or its partners provide. The resort positions itself as an expert on the topic and the content solves the user’s need.
Sponsored content/native advertisements differ based on where and how a user experiences the ad. Users are less aware that the content they are consuming is a directly sponsored because it blends into surrounding content.
Going back to the paddle board example, the #1 listing is for Cactus Cove. Users will likely believe that the entire list was created by the resort, but in actuality, Cactus Cove Paddling — a company that rents paddleboards and kayaks in Cactus Cove — paid the lake resort for the number one ranking. Cactus Cove Paddling has effectively inserted itself where users are seeking information on a service they provide. The more natural and helpful this insertion, the more likely users will feel their needs have been solved, and that the source can be trusted.
Types of Native Advertising
Perhaps the most well-known form of native advertising is sponsored content. An advertiser creates content that seemingly blends into surrounding content on a media website that develops related content. Users visit these sites to consume content, so it’s the logical place to insert their brand’s marketing message, disguised as another piece of content. Sponsored content can come in various forms, such as articles, videos, or guides.
This form of native advertising is similar to sponsored content, except it doesn’t blend within a media site’s primary content library. Instead it is positioned as a “recommended” piece of content, typically at the footer or sidebar of the webpage. This is effective in digital marketing because it leverages the clout and credibility of the media site. If a website is a trusted source of information, a user will be more likely to view recommended content.
In Feed Social Ads
In feed social ads are content-focused posts that are pushed into a user’s feed through a paid method. The post blends into the social feed since they appear informational and useful. Users see these posts in their feeds as resources instead of promotions, and are more motivated to click through. The key here is to ensure the landing page actually delivers on the value promised in the social post. Otherwise, users will immediately bounce, and brand affinity will decrease.
Rules and Regulations of Native Advertising
Since native ads are deceptive in nature and have increased in popularity, the rules and regulations governing this type of advertising have also increased. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires content providers and advertisers to disclose sponsored content. This can be done in various ways, such as adding “Sponsored” to the top of a piece of content. Advertisers are still pushing the limits with how they disclose native ads since these rules are relatively new and are not fully regulated. However, there have been several cases of advertisers and content providers being penalized for failing to adhere to these rules, so it’s imperative to play by the book in order to have a long-term, effective digital marketing strategy.
Native advertising is a creative way to cut through the advertising clutter as an adapted means of promoting a marketing message. Adding native advertising can be an effective digital marketing strategy, the key is to ensure your sponsored content adheres to the rules and regulations of the FTC, and that your content delivers on its promise. The demand for useful content that solves the need of a user will never end, but the scrutiny that content goes under by the user will continue to increase. As long as your content solves the need, users won’t necessarily mind that the content was sponsored, and may find your brand more favorable compared to the others. By strategically developing content that blends into the surrounding environment, subtly promoting your brand, and delivering promised value, you can effectively integrate native advertising into your overall digital marketing strategy.