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.

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.