Native advertising is new, which makes it prone to controversy. Detractors question the media's objectivity and the potential for misleading consumers -- an issue that has been well discussed elsewhere. But the derision of native advertising has failed to slow its advance for obvious reasons: The advertising world used to be way worse, media companies have to make money somehow, and consumers actually prefer native ads.
For a more thorough understanding of this relatively new field, I spoke with Vitaly Pecherskiy. The native-advertising expert is COO of StackAdapt, a platform for distributing content through native and video advertising channels. His company has conducted research on the trends and behaviors driving this form of marketing.
Putting aside the hype, it's worth considering Pecherskiy's four reasons why companies should try native advertising.
1. Loyalty brands are winning.
Pay-per-click marketing does one thing: make the sale. It targets would-be consumers with an ad that follows them on the internet and forces its way onto every screen. In a very low percentage of situations, pay-per-click's repetitious reminders ultimately succeed in getting that click. An equally small proportion of clicks will result in conversions. In the end, a consumer becomes a customer and money is exchanged for goods and services in a very transactional, one-off basis.
Unfortunately, that's all pay-per-click ads can hope to accomplish -- capture prospects when they are ready to make a purchase. This strategy may work for established brands. But waiting for leads to come in simply doesn't work for smaller or younger brands that struggle to garner enough searches for their companies or products in the first place.
“Native advertising gives companies the opportunity to intellectually establish a bond with their customers through content,” Pecherskiy says. “Their ads are more than a picture and a discount. They are aimed at the heart of the consumer’s values and lifestyle. By forging that connection, companies create loyal customers who return time and again.”
2. Consumers don’t want to be sold.
Millennials, in particular, recognize then you're selling to them. And they hate it. StackAdapt research reveals that 51 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds are more likely to trust branded content than traditional advertising.
This trend can be seen everywhere you look. Young people use ad blockers and trust influencers more than they rely on television commercials. Done the right way, native advertising shouldn't bother anyone's sensibilities. In fact, it's a positive move for society. Advertising should have a basis in real ideas, not just pestering ads and slogans.
3. Native advertising expands your agile marketing abilities.
A product's best feature might not sound particularly cool without some unpacking. Buick turned to native advertising to overcome such a problem. The car manufacturer wanted to emphasize the value of a 24-hour test drive, so it placed an ad to walk viewers through a fun-filled Saturday from start to finish -- trips to the park, lots of food and good friends. The company plugged the test drive at the close of the ad, asking, "How can you experience life over the next 24 hours? Experience the New Buick.”
Making a test drive into a relatable thing that connects with consumers on a lifestyle level is an accomplishment. And it is best accomplished through a medium that users already enjoy: entertaining or insightful content.
4. Ads can express real ideas.
Good native advertising has very little to do with a product or service and everything to do with an idea that elicits an emotion, educates and entertains. This method affords companies the opportunity to weigh in on social issues, make people laugh and widen consumers' horizons through high-quality content. It's important to note that this is precisely the type of content people seek out.
“The ability to advertise by communicating good ideas has to be a positive shift for society," Pecherskiy says. "In an economy that is accustomed to aggressive advertising and companies that will do anything to make a sale, native advertising is a breath of fresh air."
America’s corporations always have had an important voice in our culture. Native advertising gives them a platform to project good ideas instead of promoting unfiltered consumerism.