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Whilst the adoption of native advertising is a significant decision for publishers, advertisers also need to think carefully before adopting a content marketing strategy.  

Done well, it can positively transform a brands reputation but, done badly, it can backfire and destroy credibility.

Before launching a native advertising campaign, brands must consider at least five different questions:

Strike a balance 

The key to effective content marketing is to strike the right balance between brand messaging and content. To be effective, content must be compelling and shareable in order to secure the engagement that gives native its power.  

Conversely, the brand message needs to be strong enough to drive the behavioural changes that you’re looking for.

A perfect native campaign will have the brand values embedded in the creative content, meaning that the hard sell isn’t necessary, but this can be difficult to achieve across all types of brands.

This balance will become even more important as the screen size gets smaller in mobile, with less space to balance brand and content. 

Understand the platform 

It’s always important to understand the context in which marketing is going to be displayed, but it’s even more important when deploying a native strategy.  

The power of native comes from its integration into and alignment with its host, so understanding that host, its language and audience is vital to optimising the output. This process can be simple when running a one-off campaign on a single, known site.  

However, scaling a campaign across multiple outputs requires certainty about the value of the sites or networks that are being utilised. 

Scale

Whilst one-off, bespoke native hits on a single site can deliver real value, they’re not going to deliver the sort of scale that a major brand requires to move the needle.  

To enable native to deliver real value means scaling campaigns across multiple sites. The key here is to broaden the view of native away from traditional advertorial type articles towards more structured outputs.  

Social native and display native both enable the power of editorial integration combined with scalability of more standardised advertising outputs.

For example, display native lets you host editorial content within the context of a standard banner, letting you roll out a campaign across multiple sites or networks.  

Respect your audience 

Good content marketing shouldn’t be about tricking an audience into thinking that advertising is editorial content, it should be about delivering sufficient editorial value that a reader engages with the content voluntarily, aware that it is coming from a brand.  

True third party endorsement can only come through independent editorial, whilst native is about making the most of the trust relationship between publisher and reader in an open brand partnership.  

This can be hard to achieve and can mean a greater compromise between content and brand message, but it’s vital in securing the real value of native content.  

Native should be adding value to the user experience. If it does this then you will earn respect.  

Who’s the writer? 

Brands can often be tempted to hold tight editorial control over native content based on the assumption that, as the custodian of the brand, they can express its nuances most effectively.  

However, native isn’t about parroting brand stories, it’s about using the voice and platform of a third party publication to help communicate the story to a wider audience.  

Many publishers have their own content marketing teams to help brands craft native stories or, alternatively, with a display native approach brands can use existing third-party content to give depth and context to their advertising messages. 

In summary 

The key for a brand in securing the greatest value from content marketing is to truly understand what native is for and how it works.  

From that basic understanding, the rest should become clear. Native can help brands to use the relationship between publishers and their audiences. The key is to avoid overstepping the line and hijacking the relationship.

Native should feel Natural, but not Naked! 

Matt Gower

Published 12 February, 2014 by Matt Gower

Matt is European managing director at Martini Media. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

4 more posts from this author

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