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.

The Public Relations Value in Disaster Recovery

This past Sunday, the ACHLA sponsored a walk to highlight the vibrancy of the Atlantic City boardwalk post Sandy. News coverage around the nation left the impression that the boardwalk had been decimated. Nothing could be farther from the truth either in AC or OC – Ocean City. Both boardwalks are open for business. But, as Al Reis and Jack Trout noted in their now classic book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, once an idea takes hold it’s hard to unlodge.

That’s where the walk came in. It wasn’t to raise money. It was to raise awareness. If people stay away from Atlantic City and other boardwalk communities, the monetary damage from Sandy can be unnecessarily greater. Sandy was an Act of God. Bad PR is an Act of Mankind. Both require a concerted effort for real disaster recovery.

News coverage claims close to 600 people attended the Sunday walk. I was one of them. I can’t substantiate the number, but I can substantiate the energy on the boardwalk and the fact that almost everywhere you looked, the boardwalk was clean, undamaged, and open for business.

So when public perception is wrong, how do you go about changing it? The answer is an integrated, strong campaign. Advertising alone isn’t enough. But advertising combined with PR and a full marketing toolkit can be a powerful agent for change. PR takes spokespeople to talk to news organizations outside the area, press releases and targeted articles to travel publications and sites, and a full court press of social media and traditional media options.

And what about the Do AC ad campaign? It’s being run by some very smart people,who have already revamped to account for Sandy positioning. Their latest headline? “Nothing Can Hold Back The City Where Anything is Possible.” Why? Because, just promoting DoAC won’t work post-Sandy as no one wants to get away to someplace devastated in their minds. The key is to show, prove and entice people to see AC as it really is – and perhaps as a social responsibility for rebuilding NJ.

There’s a model out there already. It’s called Bourbon Street post Katrina. The Gulf Coast made sure to let people know it was open for business and that by visiting you were helping to rebuild New Orleans. It was almost a public duty to visit New Orleans in 2005. Emotion is a key factor in PR and advertising. Don’t be afraid to use it.

What can you do as a small business at the Jersey Shore? Use your email list to let customers know you’re open for business. Aggressively use your web site to foster sales. Post on all your social media sites with pictures to show ongoing vibrancy of your business. Entice people to help support the commercial growth of The Shore. Advertise to show you’re here to stay. Use emotion. Don’t be afraid to say Jersey Strong, or Rebuilding the Shore in your ads. It’s what people want to see happen. Show you’re a part of the fiber that makes the Jersey Shore a national treasure.

The Walk-away: Disaster happens. Don’t let it be the end of you. Stake your flag (or foot) in the sand and use advertising, PR, email, social media and every message channel open to you to encourage customers to come back sooner rather than later. Be Jersey Strong. As an aside, if your business is  a collection drop for any charity, please make sure the public knows by emailing an alert to PressitForward@PressofAc.com,  the new listing service also started on Sunday called PressItForward.

Ad Lessons from Political Campaigns – Part 2

‘Tis still the season of political advertising and now that both major party conventions are over, the real advertising begins. If you ever think the age of big media advertising is over, just check on political campaigns. Yes, modern campaigns now effectively use social media, BUT (and it’s a big BUT) in addition to mainstream media, not in replacement of it. Why?

Candidates Need to Be Credible.

Just because a candidate says he’s the greatest doesn’t cut it. People can too easily ignore that message

The key is gaining credibility in endorsements. It’s the reason candidates value them so highly. People like to know what others are thinking and endorsement lets them jump on a trusted bandwagon. Consider your business as a candidate for consumer trust and dollars. To gain their trust, or vote, you need to be credible.

How can you gain credibility? Do what the candidates do. Get interviewed, get written about, get quoted.

How to apply it: Read the business and other sections of your newspaper and look for opportunities to pitch yourself to the appropriate editor. If there’s a new business section, send the business editor a press release on your new opening. If there’s an ongoing feature on wellness, and your business is in fitness, let the editor know what your area of expertise is and how you can offer information that may be of use in a story.

Not sure how to get started? Contact a local PR pro. If you’re comfortable doing your own PR, just make sure you’re pitching the right people about your story or area of expertise. Here’s one way to electronically pitch a story to The Press. But the best way is to get a name and contact them directly.

THEN:  If you’re printed, promote your coverage. Put a quote in an ad; frame the article and hang it up in your business; tweet about it on Twitter, or post a link to the story in Facebook. You can now promote  your increased credibility just as the candidates do!

The Walk-away: People are more receptive to advertising messages from credible sources. Use third-party mentions  by a credible source as proof that you’ve got “great legs, and soon the rest of the community will be checking out your “legs” (ahem, ad claims) as well.