What happens to advertising when people become too busy to be interrupted?
If conversations at Advertising Week 2012 are any indication, you take your brand narrative and go “native.”
The latest digitally-driven marketing meme caught fire among the early adopter crowd late this summer and was a hot topic of conversation at the New York ad fest earlier this month. So what is it, you ask?
According to Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethough, it’s a form of media built into the actual visual design, where the ads are embedded into the content. Others have weighed in with their interpretation, calling native advertising a refresh of advertorials, a format created back in the mid-1940s. Some see it as a user experience requirement that will ultimately spell the demise of digital display advertising. Major social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr have followed Google‘s lead rolling out new, contextually relevant ways to advertise. The big publishers are in the game too.
In my experience, a native marketing mindset encompasses more than an advertising proposition — the box in which most of these conversations are taking place. A native mindset, simply put, is about delivering content that adds value versus interrupts the media experience. It can happen in an ad, on a social network, in media stories, and more.
In some ways native content is nothing new. PR pros know that only highly relevant content is featured in news coverage, editorial features and op-ed write-ups. Without going deep into reader and reporter interests, you simply have no shot of getting any attention, let alone into the story.
Taken from another perspective, the territory is all-new, exemplified by sponsored stories on social networks, brand-generated links alongside relevant articles and ad-supported brand contributions, like Forbes’ BrandVoice product.
Regardless of which view you take, this conversation ultimately comes down to first defining a smart, highly relevant content strategy — one that feeds into editorial and advertising opportunities social networks and digital publishers are bringing to market.
Expect the advertising, tech and media community to escalate the buzz-level about displacing interruption-based tactics with more immersive experiences.
According to Sam Slaughter, managing editor and chief operating officer at Contently, the native conversation is a disruptive one. “As users get more and more choice in the type of content they consume, it becomes inevitable that they’ll tune out anything that doesn’t interest them — and so it becomes imperative for advertisers to show them content that does.”
It’s a topic ripe for theoretical championing, running head-first into hard-to-break marketing habits. Like, how do marketers move from occasional campaign creative development to engaging content production delivered 365 days a year? As one creative director put it, it’s like going from a highly polished, Chris Rock stand-up show to the David Letterman show. You can’t just go on tour. You have to make people laugh with new material night-in and night-out.
Another issue: what to make of the expanding range of editorially-minded advertising formats that don’t fit neatly into a media planner’s spreadsheet, a creative director’s mindset or production manager’s ability to deliver ads efficiently?
To become truly native, the industry has big hurdles to get past. Based on what I’m seeing from media, marketers and start-ups the shift is inevitable – along with work-flow, budget and talent issues that go along with it.
“I think the PR and marketing professionals who staff internal departments have an entirely different skill set than people with a real-time editorial focus,” added Slaughter. “And it’s a massive problem – like asking your plumber to suddenly become a skilled electrician. The companies we’ve seen have success with native advertising and content marketing are the ones that understand this, and either hire experienced journalists, augment their communications team, or contract with a company like Contently.”
Chris Perry is president, digital, at Weber Shandwick
This article first appeared on Forbes.com