3 Keys To Native Advertising That Works

14 Nov 3 Keys To Native Advertising That Works

nativead_imageEverywhere you turn today the talk is about “native advertising,” sometimes called sponsored content or contextual advertising.

Newspapers from The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News to the Naperville Sun and Tyler Morning Telegraph have adopted the practice in some form or fashion.

In essence, native advertising — sponsored content wrapped in the context of high quality, trusted reporting — is what we called “advertorial” back in the day. Apparently when advertorial moves from print to the web it becomes “native.” Its proponents argue it is also better.

The last few weeks I have spent a great deal of time reading about, studying and thinking about native advertising — probably too much time! I have listened to those advocating the merits of native advertising in our search driven world. I have listened to industry leaders like TownNews’ Marc Wilson decry native advertising as a “slippery slope” to ruin.

To many native advertising is badvertising that devalues the trust our local franchises have worked so hard to build over decades, in some cases centuries. To others it represents the cornerstone for building our digital future.

Either way, native advertising is inevitable. Sadly much of it will be dreadful.

It is inevitable because the biggest names in the local media industry are already behind native advertising. There is no question most media outlets will follow their lead. As they do, however, it is equally clear that many will do a poor job of realizing the potential benefits of sponsored content. Why?

Effective native advertising needs three qualities to guarantee success for the sponsor:

  1. The content must be a good read. A boring story won’t get out of the starting block to influence a reader to do business with the sponsor. Native advertising must be interesting.
  2. It must be truthful and accurate. Pandering to the advertiser, exaggeration and embellishment will hurt the sponsor’s credibility and ultimately their business, rather than help. Misleading native advertising is the kiss of death.
  3. The content must original and valuable. Repetition of popular search terms to assure Search Engine Optimization may deliver eyeballs to the native advertising, but SEO of worthless content will turn off consumers and demean the sponsor’s image. Useful content has the opportunity to turn on readers and transform them into buyers.

Done right, native advertising has huge upside for local media companies. However, if the execution fails to deliver on one or more of the three promises above, the results will be dismal. Worse, the harm done to solid brands could be irreversible.