Why to Consider Advertorials versus Going Native

group social media_107151458Thanks to the web and social media we have yet another new advertising term to learn – “Native Advertising.”  The problem is that even those in-the-know don’t know exactly what it is. “The native advertising industry is so new that nobody can agree what it means in the first place,” writes Jack Marshall in his Digiday article aptly entitled Native Ad Terminology is a Mess.

The easiest way to start to understand Native Advertising is to look at its counterpart in the print world  – the Advertorial. In its most basic format, a native ad is a digital ad that promotes something by trying to appear as if it’s not an ad.

So why the new term? Simply put — Advertorials are simple and Native Advertising is not.

What Advertorials and Native Advertising have in common are two shared goals:

  1. To create advertising content/copy that doesn’t appear to be an ad
  2. To create an ad that is closely aligned with people’s expected experience.

The second goal is admittedly jargony as it stems from the web world, but this is what it means: when a reader picks up a magazine or newspaper, she expects to read articles. Hence, advertorial appears as articles. The format of the advertising matches the reader’s expected experience in picking up the print product. The good news is that newspapers and magazines have long-established standards so readers can easily spot advertorials and be aware that they are reading “Sponsored or Paid” copy. Industry studies indicate that  readers understand advertorials are promotional, but like the format just as they like to read ads. Advertorials, when measured, continue to show solid returns for advertisers.

In the digital world the concept of expected experience also is called intended or organic experience. It means creating content that, similar to advertorials, match the viewer’s desired experience when they go on to a specific digital medium. And, here’s where it gets complicated as some come to a digital platform to read articles, others to scan headlines, some to watch videos, and still others to search for information, or listen to music. The format of native ads, therefore, changes for each of these experiences.

The most common type of native ad is a Paid Search Ad on Google. The intended experience is for searchers to see results based on a defined search term or series of words. The organic search results bubble to the top based on a Google, Bing, or other algorithms. The native experience is to see paid ads next to the organic ads that have been strategically placed to entice the viewer interested in the searched term.

Other common examples are sponsored Tweets, and sponsored Facebook posts, but there are many others. Google, Facebook and Twitter provide “closed” native ads – meaning you can sponsor Tweets within Twitter feeds, or sponsor Facebook links within the Facebook news feed.  There are also “open” native ads that run across platforms, but these are too complex to address in one blog post.

Unlike print advertorials, digital native ads are not always clearly marked.  According to a 2013 e-Marketer report: “Native ad spending is growing faster than many other forms of digital advertising.” And an April 2013 BIA/Kelsey study states:  “Native social formats, including video, and mobile-social advertising will be the principal market growth drivers.” But the jury on native ad effectiveness is still out.  Some marketers love them.  Some consumers hate them.

The Walk-away:  Sponsored ads work. It’s why advertorials have been popular with so many advertisers for so many years. But, when it comes to the digital world, the best advice is “Buyer Beware.”  The medium is so new that it’s not yet regulated, and it’s easy to spend big bucks that literally dissipate into air. Until there’s more agreement on what works and what’s ethical, it’s best to stay grounded in advertising techniques that have proven their mettle for all sorts of advertisers.

Advertising Extends Seasonal Sales Cycles

Being in a seasonal business can mean one of three things:

  1. Your business is seasonal catering to a defined seasonal market. Summer amusement parks fall into this category.
  2. Your business is located in a seasonal market, but isn’t generally considered seasonal. Grocery stores that cater to local residents, but see an increase in sales during tourism seasons share this category.
  3. Your industry is considered seasonal.  Many retail businesses fall into this segment, with high holiday and back-to-school selling seasons.

carlegsRegardless of your category, great marketing helps you either broaden your season length, or create additional seasons. For instance, some category 1 B&Bs previously known only as for summer destinations have successfully positioned themselves as off-season resorts in addition to their regular high season. By advertising these new selling propositions to both standard clientele and new customers looking for different or more cost-effective vacation experiences, these B&Bs have effectively created a second sales season that didn’t exist several years ago.

When in a category 3 business with a seasonal selling cycle, it’s important to stay abreast of ever-changing consumer trends to ensure that what has traditionally been your key selling season hasn’t changed the game. The auto industry is a great example of how consumer shopping patterns have shifted just within a two-year time period.

Take a look at the table below from the US Census, which tracks retail sales by category every year. In 2010, two years after the recession hit high gear, auto sales by auto dealers were highest in December as consumers waited for late year models to go on sale.

Percentage of Auto Sales by Auto Dealers in 2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
7.3%
7.2%
8.4%
8.3%
8.5%
8.4%
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
8.4%
8.5%
8.1%
8.3%
8.6%
10.2%

Sales in December were 2-3 points higher than any other time of the year with January and February being the off season. Traditional car advertising followed this pattern, tending to run heavier during the holiday seasons and staying low during the early winter months.

But, buying patterns have changed and if a car dealer today is still buying advertising based on the 2010 model, they would be missing a significant amount of  2012 buyers, who are far more consistent in buying cars throughout the year. Check out the buying patterns for 2012 below.

Percentage of Auto Sales by Auto Dealers in 2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
8.0%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
8.2%
8.4%
8.6%
8.4%
8.7%
8.8%

This new data set shows that consumers are actively buying cars all year long with December still being a key buying month, but no one group of months being significantly different from the others. What was once a semi-seasonal business has evened out.

What this means is advertisers not adjusting their media plans to attract consumers all year long are missing those consumers who are actively in the market at any point in time. The data is available from the government for most key industrial codes.

The Walk-away: Assumptions made about key selling times of the year can cause businesses to unnecessarily miss key selling opportunities. The recent past is not always a good indication of current or future buying trends.

SOURCE: Monthly Retail and Food Service Sales, 2012 Sales, census data, http://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/excel/mrtssales92-present.xls

Real Estate Study Shows What Advertising Works

In real estate advertising, a recent study shows that print and digital ads are a powerful combination. Seeking to determine effects of both print and digital advertising on effectively selling a home, the study found:

Homes for sale that are advertised in both print and online are 20% more likely to be sold than those that use just one medium.

Furthermore, the study showed that “properties that used a combination of both print and online advertising had lower discount levels and spent less time on the market.” The study, considered the first of its kind,  was conducted by News Limited, the majority owner owelcome matf Australia’s website realestate.com.au,  to determine what marketing worked in moving more than a half million properties within a 12 month period.

Previously, realtors swapped information on what they thought worked or didn’t in advertising campaigns, but the field was sorely lacking in valid statistical data. The industry in the U.S. is great at tracking metrics on homes for sale, homes listed, and prices achieved, but has a lack of information on what fosters the sale. The Australian study starts to shed light on advertising effectiveness that can be insightful not only for American realtors, but other small to medium-sized retail operations in the U.S, namely:

  • Inventory that sells fast tends to not to have to be discounted.
  • Using a combination of print and digital advertising increases exposure for items you have to sell.
  • The added exposure can increase your advertising return by up to 20%.

The Walk-away: When creating your media plan to sell inventory, don’t just think of one medium. Print and digital are a strong combination. Because of their strong local reach, the print/digital combo should be the foundation of any local advertising program, with other medium added for effect.

Credible Ads are Placed in Trusted Media Sources

When it comes to consumer trust, traditional media still rules the day. A digital report released this summer by Triton Digital, shows that newspapers, radio and TV each outweigh internet-only news sources in terms of trust. Reported in e-Marketer under the title “Traditional Media Still Most Trusted Sources of Info,” the article concludes … “with time and attention –and trust—still focused on traditional media, TV, radio and print are not to be neglected.”  Both Triton Digital and eMarketer are services dedicated to digital growth trends, giving the report significance as one of those “eating crow” times when digital gurus formally admit the power of print and broadcast.

In this increasingly digital world, people have frequently confused news with news delivery trends. Findings from a January Pew Research study note: “People are no longer taking one path to access news.” Consumer appetites for news today are extremely healthy, but instead of reading three newspapers as their grandfathers did, today’s consumers gather news from three or more platforms frequently including print, desktops, and mobile devices as sources for their daily news consumption.

The Pew survey also reported in e-Marketer found: “ that when seeking news, the highest percentage of consumers went directly to a news organization’s website or app, which suggests that pre-existing relationships are what drive readers to particular news outlets.” The reason boils down to trust.

A new business book,The Trust Edge,by David Horsager delves into the elements needed for businesses of any type to gain consumer trust.  Not surprisingly, he finds that  trust is not built overnight. Hence, it should be  no surprise in the higher level of consumer trust  in more established news sources who have honed their reporting skills over time.

How does this affect advertising? By affiliation, an advertiser associated with a credible media source has higher perceived “trust” value with consumers. Is it any surprise then that Google just reported it’s average cost per click has fallen by 15% compared with the same time last year?

The Walk-away: All that glitters is not gold. New devices are engaging for games and email, and also give consumers greater access to news. But when news and information is wanted over Angry Birds, consumers use those devices to find credible, trusted news sources. These landing pages are the places you should consider for ad placements, so you, too, can be found by consumers actively seeking credible resources.

Why Great Advertising Can Be Grammatically Incorrect

“Advertising is the spoken word in print.”

This is one of 52 small ideas that make a big impact from “The Little Blue Book of Advertising.”

What it means is: Grammar is best reserved for college essays, and may not have a place in effective advertising. Don’t agree? Take a moment to try and …

Think Different.

Remember that effective tag line from the 1997 Apple campaign? If not, here’s the TV spot that is still studied today as a classic. It still serves to position Apple as the product for alternative thinkers. By all accounts it worked as effective advertising. And, it’s grammatically incorrect. To get an A on an English exam, the copywriter would have written it “think differently,” and it would not have resonated or had the ad impact it did.

Advertising is fundamentally meant to “speak to” an intended audience, which is why the spoken tone is considered more effective than the grammatically correct written word.

If you’re proofing an ad for either yourself or someone else, here’s a tip:

Don’t read it quietly.

Read.

It.

Aloud.

Does the ad sound right? This tip holds for print ads as much as for radio spots. In print, readers read the ad in their own voices in their heads. Make sure the ad sounds right and it will have a better chance of resonating with your intended customers. And, if need be, keep it grammatically incorrect.

The Walk-away: Even in print, ads are meant to be ‘spoken’. If your ad doesn’t resonate in a genuine voice in a reader’s head they will discount your message as disingenuous. People like to do business with people who either “sound” like them, sound as they aspire to be.

 

Post originally appeared on AdsWithLegs blog created for The Press of Atlantic City, October 2012.

Update Your Ads to Resonate with Today’s Consumers

Times have changed. Has your advertising?

If your ad message, look and feel is the same as it was 5 or even 10 years ago, it’s time you got a makeover. Ads are like fashion. They need to stay up with the times, and yes – times have changed.

In colleges around the country, students of advertising are learning that they can study the culture of various times by looking at ads. That’s because ads need to be current with lifestyles in order to resonate with consumers.

Magazine ads during World War II depict patriotic themes from women working in factories to men fighting in the fields, whereas ads from the Cold War era show a very different slice of life – women in aprons happily baking and tending to the home and men suited up for the office. These images were product agnostic and seen in promotions for everything from motor oil to fashion.

Hindsight is 20-20 and it’s easy to see now why neither type of ad imagery would work in today’s world. Not as obvious, but equally important, is the fact that ads from the early start of the Millenium also won’t work in this decade. Ten years is a new generation and requires a new generation of ads.

What ad messaging and imagery will work today? Look critically at ads that resonate with you as a consumer and consider how you might incorporate those elements in your own ads. Consider the audience you want to reach and what their current concerns may be. Although ads have changed from decade to decade, ad goals have not. Your goal is always to provide images and copy that motivate your potential target audience to take action and feel that they are getting their needs met with your products and services. Some times those needs are subliminal such as the need for security, coolness, and rarely are about price, even during a recession.

Take a new look at your ad copy. Does it speak to today’s consumer’s issues or desires? If not, you have a strong clue why your ads may not be working as they did in the past. It’s time for your long overdue makeover and to get your ads into present times.

The Walk-away: If you want your business to be relevant and resonate with today’s consumers, don’t date yourself with ad copy and graphics from 5-10 years ago. Give your ads updated legs that can walk the talk of the times.

What You Can Learn from Political Campaign Ads

‘Tis the season of political advertising. It’s a great opportunity to dissect effective campaign ad techniques in influencing voters, and learn how you can adopt them to influence consumer interest in your business.

Here are just the first two:

  1. Bragging Needs Bragging Rights
  2. The Hmmm Factor

We’ll cover more in future posts. You’ll likely notice highlighted similarities in each technique.There’s a reason for that. Each technique is designed to get a candidate noticed, and each is counter-intuitive to Basic Advertising Wisdom – Tell Everyone Why You’re So Great. Below each is a practical way on how to apply the technique in business advertising.

Bragging Needs Bragging Rights.  Just because you say you’re the greatest doesn’t cut it. People expect you to say you’re the best in an ad, so they can too easily ignore that message

BUT … if someone else says you’re great, then you have bragging rights. It’s the reason top brands spend big dollars on celebrity endorsements, and the reason political candidates from both parties get Keynote Speakers at their conventions. The message is: “Don’t take my word for it. Listen to these guys tell you how great I am.”

How to apply it:  Smart companies let you know their endorsements. There are many companies making sure their ads say they won a “Best of the Press” citation. Make sure to use your ads to announce whenever you are mentioned as top in your category either from a contest, reader survey, or article.

The Hmmm Factor. The goal of many political ads is to get a potential voter to say “Hmmm, didn’t think of that.” That  “Hmmm,” or  “Brain Pause” is frequently what gets a campaign humming, and a key reason political ads go negative. Positive doesn’t work as well. Why?

Just because you say you’re the greatest doesn’t cut it. People expect you to say you’re the best in an ad, so they can too easily  ignore that message

BUT … if a candidate or PAC says the other guy is not so great, a voter may say “Hmmm,” and process the ad as new “information” rather than an ad.

How to apply it:  It is not recommended to go negative in your ads on the competition. It is, however, important to get the reader to “pause” and consider your ad as information rather than a pitch. Consider ads that are Q and As, provide an insight into your commitment to the community, or find a way to personalize your company through the ad copy. The new information can get them to say “Hmmm,” and that pause means they’ve stopped to take time to consider your message.

The Walk-away: Politicians use political ads because they work. Consider the technique behind the ad and how you might be able to use it to give your ads the influence factor that drives traffic and attention to your business.

For Advertising Wisdom – Go Fly a Kite

Advertisers frequently make the mistake of putting out one ad, one time, and waiting to see what happens. If it works, they think, they’ll do it again. And, if it doesn’t, they won’t. The odds are very strong the ad won’t work because their ad strategy is, in effect, spitting into the wind. To understand why, let’s take the analogy a bit higher and drier. Let’s go kite flying.

Ads with legs kite photoImagine your ad is a kite on a long string and you fly it once for 5 minutes. That’s a long time because the average ad is seen or heard for less than 30 seconds in broadcast, and under one minute in print. How many people do you think will have seen your kite and commented on it?

What if your kite stays up for hours on end? That’s called Frequency –  meaning that you’re giving consumers several options for seeing your kite over time.

Finally, fly your kite on a crowded beach during the height of summer. That’s called Reach. You’re reaching thousands more people than if you flew the same gorgeous kite for the same amount of time in a desolate area.

Now, let’s assume your kite is a plain white kite. Even if it’s the only one in the sky, it may get overlooked as it blends with the clouds. It is not distinctive. In this case, it’s seen but not remembered and has no impact. Make your kite colorful, or extraordinarily designed, and it now stands out. That’s called getting noticed, the first key component in an increasingly cluttered competitive field.

But, what if you need your kite to be noticed during a windy day when everyone’s come out to fly kites? You might be better off having that plain white kite to set you apart from the sea of colorful kites. In design that’s a positive use of negative space, or differentiation.

Now, imagine you fly your kite long enough to break the Guinness Book of World Records. What type of PR benefits will you now get? Welcome to the world of public relations – a topic for another time.Ads with legs plane photo

The Walk-away: Ads that work let you successfully fight the battle for client attention and send your business soaring. But, as the Wright Brothers knew, flying successfully takes practice and planning. Advertising, like aerodynamics, is a science. Study the principles and you could be flying in no time like a trained pro.

Lessons from a Leader – Ray Ban Ads

Have you seen the latest series of Ray Ban ads, running in the May issue of Wired magazine?  If not, here they are.

What can we learn from them?

  • Ads don’t need lots of copy to be effective
  • Frequency gains awareness
  • Consistency in copy builds brand positioning
  • A great photo can make a great ad
  • What’s in the background is as important as the foreground
  • A little color is sometimes more effective than a lot
  • Not everything has to be in the ad. A web site is great for extra info.
  • Change has to be consistent.

The problem with most ads is inconsistency. With the Ray Ban ads, the photos change, but the message does not – be different boldly and with pride. The headline, logo positioning, logo color, web address for more info on the left, and  anniversary mark remain the same.

The message in the series is simple. Ray Bans are for the people who stand out from the crowd. What you see here are three of five interpretations of the same concept, but unwavering attention to a consistent, simple theme. Click here to see the complete campaign.  The ads are the latest in a five-year campaign. This year’s ads celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary and celebrate people who, throughout times, flout conformity in plain site.

The Walk-away: Ads that build brands are like walking shoes. They’re built to last (apologies to Jim Collins ) by solidly supporting the brand’s message. Whether you like them or not, they’re simple, reliable and get you where you want to go.