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How to blend native advertising with your content

Consuming information in the digital age is much like navigating through jungles – crowded, dense and tangled. Then there are those who have mastered their way around the thickness. Publishers. News platforms. Media companies. The eyes and ears of the public.

Not surprisingly, when brands want to cut through the clutter, they leverage these popular news sites using native advertising. But is it a good strategy and how do brands make it work?

More revenue for publishers, more engagement for brands?  

The State of Native Advertising 2014 report states that 62% of publishers around the world offer native advertising but only 41% of brands are adopting it as part of the marketing mix. There is room for growth as the forecast for native advertising revenue sees an upward trend over a 5-year period.

Nonetheless, the “advertising” in native advertising has got consumers agitated. A survey by MediaBrix reports 57% of readers find Facebook sponsored stories misleading while 66% feel misled by advertorials.

Experts have stressed on having “authenticity, transparency and editorial value” to succeed in native advertising. For brands, that means blending in with the natives, or the publisher’s editorial content.

Am I seeing double?

Sponsored content should have the same look and feel with the surrounding environment to avoid triggering readers’ ad-blocking tendency. While there are words and markers by publishers to distinguish native advertising from editorial content, something that doesn’t disrupt the reading flow is always better.

Results from a study by IPG and Sharethrough state that banner ads are being overlooked while native advertising, particularly in-feed articles, command as much attention as editorial content.

Big brands, being more conspicuous, have to “blend in” even more. Take a look at Microsoft Bing and its’ list post that matches so well with BuzzFeed’s style. Or this list post by Hyundai on Mashable that has garnered a huge number of shares on social media. 

Whose voice, brand or publisher? 

While businesses are effectively buying space within publishers’ real estate to tell their branded stories, it’s vital to keep in mind why people love reading content there in the first place.  

For instance, Netflix has received numerous praises for not only producing a well-informed piece on a topical issue but also adapting it to suit The New York Times’ investigative journalism image.

It is outstanding sponsored content like that that helps increase native advertising acceptance. A study by Mindshare finds that 56% of surveyed Australian consumers are attracted to branded articles.

Jumping on the native bandwagon

Brands have two options when it comes to adopting native advertising. They either can ask the publisher to do the “blending in” for them or they can create the content themselves and push through the publisher’s platform. To make an optimal decision, some questions marketers can ask include:

  • How much control am I willing to give up?
  • Do I have enough resources in-house to produce content that integrates with the publisher’s site seamlessly?
  • How well do I know the publisher and the publisher’s audience?

At the end of the day, native advertising champions are those that balance the interests of all parties: publisher, reader and the brand itself.