Advertising is evolving. Ad dollars are following consumers in the worldwide migration to the web. But these aren’t your grandmother’s advertisements. They’re not even your mother’s. This new breed of ads is not about sticking out of the crowd. It’s about blending in.
Native advertising catches the consumer’s attention without overtly begging for it. On a news site, a native advertisement would look like another article. On YouTube, a related video. The strategy stems from the theory that people will skip over ads that are easily identified as such without a moment’s thought. Native ads blend in and don’t tell the audience what to do. They start a conversation with the audience, just like normal content does, in a time when social interaction is now expected of all brands.
This idea is not new. They’ve appeared in newspapers for years, hiding among the editorials. What’s new is how they are being implemented. They span multiple platforms—Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, news sites—and focus on interaction instead of the classic “call to action.”
There are right and wrong ways to do this, as The Atlantic recently discovered after posting native content by the Church of Scientology and then censoring the negative comments. You should want readers to participate and engage with your consumers, and part of that is finding the right place to put your native content. Unilever just entered into a year-long deal with The Guardian in the U.K. that focuses on communicating with consumers, encouraging them to post their own videos and comments. They believe engagement with an ad and brand is more effective than simply viewing it.
Ultimately, the success of your business’s native advertising will be determined in much the same way as its success on social media. And the same rules apply: be human, be honest and be reliable. Two of those things are about your words, but the most important is about consistency. Reliability will never go out of style, no matter what new means of advertising pop up.