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Paul Otis
Jul 08, 2016



Native Advertising - recycling a trusted workhorse like advertorials in the digital age

For those who weren’t born as a Millennial and including GEN Z to ensure they don’t suffer from FOMO, I give you this piece of advice: Everything old is new again. Put another way, what you thought was an original concept is likely a rehash of a past success.


Now, in this particular article I’m talking specifically about native adverting, a form of content marketing – new name pumped up on internet steroids for an old idea – advertorials. But the adage holds true in almost every human endeavor. Music: guess what…that song you heard from The Weekend is likely a cover that the Eagles covered from Sinatra who stole it from Chuck Berry. Politics: have you seen that CNN series “Race for the Whitehouse” on dirty Presidential campaigns throughout our history? Same stuff, different politicos. And when you wrap these native ads around web site content…well that reminds me of the days when TV shows were sponsored by big brands. Heck, the brand was in the title of the shows: The Alcoa Hour, Buick Berle Show, Camel Caravan, Dinah Shore Chevy Show, GE Theater and I could go on, but have already shown my age, although not really, I hadn’t been born, I just “heard about them.”

Anyhow, I digress, as I tend to do in these blogs. My real point is, Native advertising is here, it’s now and it’s working -- just like advertorials used to, bringing us back full-circle to the topic today. Let’s discuss what is great, new and different and how you can use it effectively in your digital marketing campaigns.

First a definition. Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer. Native advertising is a form of content marketing and is a type of advertising, usually online but feasibly elsewhere, that matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears. (Much like advertorials did/do).

Some important points here. First, the content doesn’t have to be just articles. It can be video and even audio. MOB offers both services MOB Media Production. This is important because we know the effectiveness of video is powerful. If a picture is worth 1000 words, then a 30 second video must be worth 720,000 words (at a 24 frame rate). We’ll save the subject of video effectiveness for another one of my infrequent blog posts. Secondly, the native advertising has to look like a real third party article to be most effective. Creating a big ad may get you a few conversions, but won’t engage the reader and certainly won’t lend itself to social media sharing. It has to be informative and relevant for the reader.

Bottom line – you treat native advertising like you did in the advertorial days with a bit of a twist. Instead of finding your magazines, err…your sites first, you define your audience and target them with a wide swath of sites and then optimize from there. Sound familiar? It should, it’s the same way a good one-to-one marketer should create any digital media plan. Define your audience, find them, place it, then measure for accountability, optimize, rinse and repeat.

You want to get several articles and titles out into the ether, so that you can measure which ones readers consume the most and learn from that. Check out an example of our client’s Halstrom Academy’s Native AdvertisingYou couldn’t really do that with those advertorials, could you? You could measure leads, but not who’s reading what. And that gets me to a final point – what are you measuring?

The keywords you use, CPC, CTR, type of content and headline testing are what can influence your performance. But what are your goals? Traffic, page views or tracking CPLS, or some other conversion like subscriptions, social media share, downloads or even sales?

If you’re using native for traffic or page views, you should be measuring volume and CTRs and concentrating on getting that CPC down as low as possible. Engagement or bounce rates, in this case, are not as important, right? To paraphrase one of my dear departed client’s taglines, “Get in. Get a View. Get out.

But if your goal is conversions -- the almighty dollar, well then that’s a bit different. First, you need to have articles that are more specific to where the reader is in the funnel. You should expect a lower volume, a higher CPC (most likely lower CTR), but much higher engagement. Time spent on the article is a great indicator of success. These are the most engaged people. They are further down the sales funnel. To use an old SEM example, these people aren’t searching for TVs, they’re searching for what’s the best 55” 4K TV on the market and why.  Can you see why your article should be written differently based on your goals?

So Native Advertising is more than the next big shiny object, it’s based on principles as old as marketing and you should include it in your digital marketing planning. There are a lot of tricks to it that I haven’t detailed. It does more than SEO for you; it provides authentication, engagement and can accomplish several goals you may have that can only be accomplished in this manner. Its flexibility, targeting abilities, social sharing capabilities, as well as stickiness can be a godsend to any campaign. But it takes effort and several skills like writing a good headline, not to mention an engaging article, producing a good video or graphic content, along with strong analytical skills and a knowledge of social media and SEO. If only there were one place you could find an agency that can do all of that for you…

Until next time,


Paul Otis