When is an ad not an ad? Clearly visible logos of products used in movies and television shows—such as a particular brand of beverage or a laptop or a car or any other consumer item—are paid product placements. As Rob Tanner points out in Forbes, marketers increasingly favor product placement as an alternative to traditional ads that consumers easily fast-forward through or even delete altogether.
Such product placement on the web is called native advertising. As described by consultant John McTigue, advertisers pay to integrate their brand as a direct part of the blog content or social media feed. Instead of a display ad set distinctly apart from the content layout—which may or may not get looked at, let alone clicked on—the product or service is incorporated into a headline or graphic or forms part of the content.
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An IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough study found that consumers looked at native ads 53 percent more frequently than regular display ads, and almost twice as many respondents were likely to share native ads than display ads with friends and family. According to a study of 400 digital marketers cited in Adweek, while there are still some questions on the best execution strategies, there is no question among the majority of respondents on the value of native marketing, with some seeing it as the future of digital marketing.
Should Your Website Go Native?
BuzzFeed and Facebook are two of the most popular conduits for native advertising, and their popularity makes them an ideal platform for marketers. But another valuable piece of web real estate is something of yours—your blog, Twitter feed or other social media.
Why would a small or medium-sized business such as yours want to do this? Two reasons:
- Small businesses usually often lack the resources to continually update content. Native advertising provides “fresh material” that can keep your blog current, help engage customers and boost Google rankings.
- It’s a revenue source.
Why would a marketer want to work with you to develop native advertising?
- You share a similar audience and offer a targeted community already interested in what the marketer wants to promote.
- Your product or service complements theirs without competing against it.
- For the same reasons they’d otherwise want to buy a display ad on your website.
Don’t Trick and Do Treat
If you decide to rent your blog space to an interested marketer, keep in mind that honesty is the best policy. There’s nothing unethical about native advertising. But it can leave your audience with a bad taste if you don’t follow two simple guidelines:
- Don’t hide the fact that you are using sponsored content. In fact, make it conspicuous that you are working with a partner.
- Read and approve the content; ensure it is something your audience wants to read and is relevant to their interests.
PR and digital content strategist Valorie Luther reports on what does and does not work in providing native advertising to SMB partners. A natural lifestyle website is a prime example of how native advertising can be a successful collaboration. She writes, “The website proved once again to their readers they could be trusted by presenting a well vetted trustworthy brand openly, while our client had the benefit of getting their messaging in front of a whole new group of potential customers.”