Native Advertising: Is it News or Advertising?

avatar Accelerate Media | Staff Piece

Native advertising is a concept that’s been under discussion these days. Every marketing blog seems to have an opinion: some feel it’s the new must-do kind of advertising, others feel it can be misleading. But, what on Earth is it and should you try fit into your marketing plan?

Strong Content With a Dash of Brand Awareness

To start, let’s define exactly what native advertising is. The basic purpose of native advertising is to bring ads and content generation to a middle ground in order to build brand awareness and/or lead generation through newsworthy, relevant content. It lives in a bit of a grey area between public relations and advertising, and it most certainly requires a subtle, deft touch to prevent it from sounding overly sales-y or promotional.

Now that you have a basic understanding of native advertising, does it make sense for your marketing? To answer that question, ask yourself a few more:

  1. What are my expectations around native advertising?
    Native advertising ROI is a tricky metric to track; it can be hard to decipher exactly what’s driving conversions. You may see an uptick in sales, but it will be hard to tie that trend directly to native ad spend. It’s more likely that your native advertising efforts improved your brand awareness and perception, which in turn improved the efficacy of your other (more direct) marketing efforts. In other words, if you understand that native advertising is not necessarily a direct lead source but may still benefit you, then you are on the right track.

  2. What does my customer’s journey look like?
    This is important! Businesses that have a longer customer journey are likely going to want to get in front of their customers as early as possible. This creates familiarity with your brand and builds credibility. The sooner you can introduce your company as an industry leader and provider of solutions, the better off you are going to be when that customer reaches the moment of purchase decision.

  3. Is it the wisest use of my marketing budget?
    Maybe, maybe not; it depends on your business. If you’re seeing strong results through paid search, search engine optimization, social media, or traditional media, it might make more sense to increase spend in these realms, if the opportunity exists. For most small businesses, this is most likely going to be the case. If you need to track revenue directly to a source, that path is certainly clearer with these strategies than with native advertising.

    If, on the other hand, your more traditional efforts are stalling and you feel that a greater awareness of and affinity for your brand might aid in overall conversions, native advertising can be a great way to start building relationships—and credibility—with prospective customers.

Lastly, if you do decide to give native advertising a shot, make sure that your content is high quality and that your delivery isn’t overly (or overtly) trying to sell your product or service; be an industry leader. If you follow these guidelines, then native ads can be a strong addition to your marketing mix.