Native advertising: new marketing trend or evolving PR tool? - Dooley Communications

native advertising grahicI spent some time last week in a room full of advertising agency and corporate marketing types learning about some of the latest digital trends and tools. I can’t recommend the MESH conferences enough. They typically bring in some of the best and brightest folks in North America.

One session had me a little puzzled though. The conference organized a panel discussion on ‘native advertising,’ which we were told is fast becoming a popular online marketing option. So what is native advertising? The panel gave us a handful of tentative definitions that makes me think it’s a concept that is still only partly formed.

Panelist Kunal Gupta of Polar.me defined it this way: “advertising that feels native to the experience or native to the voice” of the publication or site.

A couple of audience members tweeted that native advertising sounded a lot like old fashioned advertorials. But I think Gupta and the other panelists would argue that it is more than that. From his discussion, native advertising should provide added value and added context to the content the readers are there to consume. An advertorial is typically just a commercial for a product; native advertising can come in a variety of formats such as images, videos, articles or graphics. The intent is to create branded content that acts as a paid companion to the editorial content around it.

The best example of native advertising are sponsored search engine results. You know those little sponsored ads that appear next to your organic search results. They appear to be the same as organic search results in most ways, but they’re paid (while also often being credible and trusted). Promoted stories on Facebook and sponsored Tweets on Twitter are two other examples.

To me, it sounded like native advertising was pretty close to some old fashioned public relations tactics. PR firms like ours regularly create specialized content that we offer to media outlets in a number of formats. Much like the concept of native advertising, we supply contributed content to radio, print and online outlets. This content is typically written as news stories citing our clients as authorities in their fields. So, insurance company clients can comment intelligently about insurance issues that would be of interest to listeners and readers. The media outlets get useful content to use and our clients get their company’s name and expertise in front of a wider audience.

Over the past few years, we have also found ourselves creating social media content for our clients ranging from infographics and videos to photos and stories. We work with our clients here in Winnipeg and across Canada to write and produce social media content that works for them, delivering key messages within compelling stories. But, hey, that’s what we’ve always done with what we now call traditional media.

The fact that advertising agencies are now embracing similar tactics shows how widespread the principles of good PR communications are becoming. We try to tell good stories about and for our clients. We look for a wide variety of ways to do that with the highest degree of credibility and impact.

For more on native advertising, here are two recent articles from Ad Age and Mashable about how it’s being implemented.

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