Native Content Best Practices

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

There are some who see native content as simply advertorial with a new name for a new generation. But for those who are prepared to dig a little deeper will be the reward; a treasure chest of thinking and understanding about how we new centurions communicate with each other.

Making comparisons with even the recent past is always, if not dangerous, then certainly unwise for planning purposes. Technology moves so far in such a short time that even basic terminology such as ‘marketing’ or ‘communication’ mean subtly different things than they did thirty or so years ago. In the latter half of the twentieth century marketing pretty much meant ‘selling’ and communication meant ‘telling’. Advertorials were still fairly blunt weapons, using brand names and images as often as possible between steps on a bland path to appearing witty and on the consumers’ side. Half-way along the first quarter of the twenty-first century and marketing is rather more about creating brands that reflect the lives’ of their target markets and communication is certainly more about listening than it is about talking. New methodologies need a reappraisal of the tools we use. Our approach and our introduction, especially in headlines, has to reflect the lightning fast filter of those whose attention we crave. Here are some native content best practices…

Headlines that work

No more than 60 characters, or about seven words, with sub-heads where the context takes a different angle. Make sure they’re relevant and current and use the under-rated colon to avoid a filler of joining words. Using multiple headlines for one article can really help drive engagementThe current data shows that content with between 1 to 5 headings drives a CTR (click through rate) of 0.83%; but that escalates to 1.3% with 11+ headlines. That means a benefit for tactical diversity when structuring your content.


Don’t be shy in testing a number of  images for your previews (as long as they are relevant!); again the research supports the power of imagery. One preview image is linked to a CTR of 0.79% but two or more alternatives push that to 0.98%; it needs more response analysis but that could well reflect the depth of relevance perceived by the audience.

Don’t be afraid to pose emotive questions in your headlines

Questions are important, it’s the way you show you’re listening; and the emotion you invoke, it’s the way you show you actually care.

Always call for action

Having made the investment in engaging your audience, any seasoned marketer knows that the next step has to be really simple. The call to action (CTA) has to be direct but not in a ‘buy it now’ sort of way; instead a ‘we’d love to chat longer’ contact or hyperlink keeps the customer in control. Thinks about adding additional CTAs in the body of the piece; if you’ve already hooked the fish why wait to reel them in?

If you’d like to discuss your native content or native advertising strategy, why not get in touch?

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Native content passes consumer driving test

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

There was little to surprise those who have been waving the native content flag for some years in the findings of ‘The Power of Native’, a major study from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP).

However, it always feels good when independent feed-back supports and confirms your own long-standing mantra. With 1,500 people approached in the quantitative survey and five in-depth qualitative interviews, the study was robustly constructed and managed, giving a good level of confidence in the outcomes.

Top line results showed that respondents scored the native content higher on measures of it being informative, interesting, useful and helpful compared to traditional advertising, with the rating on informative being double that for traditional. Given that those were the values upon which the native approach has been designed, it is good to note that it is meeting its goal.

One major outcome was in the level of brand trust perceived when accessing the native driver via a premium content site, achieving a 32% positive response, as against access through the social media route at only 1%.

Traditional advertising won out over native on the measures of being eye-catching, clear and easy to understand; again no surprise there as the most successful traditional ads tend to be an attention grabbing visual and highly focused message.

This preference or perception split is particularly interesting because when the native content was supported by some traditional ads, uplift soared by some 38% compared to unsupported native content.

So, what are these insights telling us? One of the core truths, supported by the recent Internet Advertising Bureau guidance, is that native ads must be transparent to all as to what they actually are – sponsored. As this is an essential component of the trust element, there must be very few left who see the native approach as an opportunity for sustained deception.

The other major insight is that, in a reversal of the famous proverb, native advertising is very good at making the horse drink the water but not so good at leading the horse to the water. Perhaps this is our first insight into how the rapidly growing native movement is going to live in harmony with our traditional contemporaries.

Perhaps the task for traditional methods in the future will be to drive the consumer to the native content where the deeper engagement will take place. They are clearly different skills and there is, according to the survey, substantial synergy in their combination.

What is also clear is that the days of the hard sell are mercifully gone. With so many of our national institutions, such as the banks and the utility companies, recently pilloried for using dodgy sales tactics (and paying a substantial brand price for doing so) the relationship with the customer has returned, as it always does, to providing what the customer wants with a high level of genuine service.

Native starts that process by being interesting, informative and above all trustworthy; leading the consumer to providers of solutions that, ultimately, do what they say on the tin.

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How to engage your audience this Valentine’s

By | Content Marketing

Developing content is like preparing for a romantic date; and few dates are more romantic than February 14, St Valentine’s Day.

Audiences today are like the girl who has everything; how do you break through and make that special connection when they are receiving so many earnest betrothals from so many suitors? How do we make our content so special that our message is the one that gets remembered?

Tell a story

Well, it helps if you have a story to tell, a narrative that subtly says between the lines, that you have the same values, that you’re out for more than just a quick sale; a narrative that hints loudly that you want a relationship with that reader, an engagement into the future.

Be Emotive

And it’s not about facts and figures; you don’t woo a girl by talking about the benefits of sharing overheads or the potential of a well-matched gene pool. Romance is emotion and the task is to fuel those emotions; creating pictures that become dreams and becoming a part of each other’s future. A brand needs to woo its audience in just the same way as the ardent lover woos his maiden of choice.

Use your assets

But like the peacock, a dazzling display of what might lie ahead never goes amiss; bringing colour and splendour by weaving your images and show reels into your content; turning head and melting heart until the connection is made and engagement is but a question away.

Sharing is caring

St Valentine, so the story goes, continued to marry young lovers into the Church, against the Roman edicts of the time, and was arrested and condemned. While awaiting execution he befriended and restored the eyesight of his jailer’s blind daughter and, when he was finally led away, she found a note that simply said – from your Valentine.

Now there’s a story to move even the hardest of hearts. It tells of honesty and trust and believing and caring. And there’s something about caring about people; if you care for them they will generally care for you too.

The secret with creating content is always to remember that, while the medium is digital, the audience is, and always will be, human. Be colourful, be flamboyant, but be relevant and current too. Be romantic, be witty but be honest and respectful too.

That’s the way to the heart of an audience.

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Follow the leader; a game for thoughtful natives

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

Like most imports from the United States, ideas tend to arrive on a tsunami of garish promotion liberally smothered with a dressing of wild enthusiasm. Sometimes though, just to mix a few metaphors, the present inside is actually more interesting than the wrapping.

One such import is the idea of ‘thought leaders’; not, as you may fear, a band of fiendish aliens controlling our minds and stealing our souls, but quite simply a bunch of folk who actually know what they’re talking about – and enjoy talking about it.

Call them thought leaders, call them icons, call them experts, whatever you want to call them we all have people in our mental contact list who we would turn to for advice. What’s more, we are ourselves probably the thought leaders, in our small way, for a number of stakeholder groups, such as our kids, our colleagues or our neighbours.

The point of all this is that, if we work on being thought leaders, we might just find that our community of thought followers starts to grow; and if we really know our stuff and put it out there in an easy to digest and easy to find fashion, our following could start to grow very quickly indeed. Read More

Native – copywriters, hacks, content creators in ad spend battle

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

The subject of good and bad writing, or rather, good and bad content, is very much centre stage in the speculation on the heady surge in native advertising’s popularity. The issue in question is who holds the moral high ground in the claim to be the best producers of ‘sponsored content’, as some of our more delicate publishers like to call it.

Before we start the contest, let’s just remind ourselves of the rules of the native advertising game. Instead of glaring banner displays, which research tells us the punters have learned to tune out; and dramatic and expensive photography which is then amortised across a broad spectrum of titles, we actually produce our native content tailored specifically to that one outlet, whether it’s print, broadcast or online. The logic for this being that, if that punter went to the magazine/site/channel in the first place then the chances are he/she went for the content rather than the ad; give them more great ‘content’ and they should be very happy. If some of that content is branded in a useful, relevant and not too distracting manner, then that’s OK too.

The proof as ever is in the stats. Research to date indicates that those punters spend as much time looking at the sponsored content as they do the editorial content and tend to associate the values of the advertiser with the values of the publisher. Thus a major oil company sponsoring/branding articles in an environmental mag, about the work they are doing on coastal wildlife protection, starts to develop a nice rosy glow, in branding terms.

So, that’s the name of the game; back to the battle of the word smiths for the prize of preferred creator.

In the blue corner we have the copywriters; those traditional mongers of advertising words and ideas. Usually good for a headline and some lyrical copy that can raise the life enhancing characteristics of dishwasher tablets to near ecstasy.

In the red corner we have the journalists and the editorial zealots. Their claim to the crown is that they represent the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Never will their values be desecrated at the altar of murky commercial values, nor their words driven by a bag of coin. Of course, after Watergate and its offspring we all believed them implicitly; well, that is until the affectionate label of ‘hack’ started to take on a whole new meaning.

In the, well let’s call it the purple corner, we have the youngest contenders; the content creators, children of the new digital world who are of, and can speak for, generations x, y and z. Their masters are not the pie sellers nor the evangelical truth slaves; no, the content creators have been raised and nurtured under the all seeing eye of the search-engine algorithm; they can certainly lead the virtual consumer horse to water but can they make it drink?

So, which do we trust most with the future of native advertising? Let battle commence!

How to make sure your native content stands out from the rest

By | Content Marketing, Native advertising

Native advertising is on the rise. Publishers and advertisers alike are embracing it with open arms, putting the consumer experience first. Here’s what 5 experts told about creating native ad content that stands out from the rest.

Lynda Hammes, publisher, Foreign Affairs
Critics of native advertising focus on the clarity and labelling of the native advertising within the context of editorial content. While that’s an important consideration, I think the effectiveness of native advertising actually relies on the substance and quality of the content presented. The scourge of listicle headlines that promise “amazing” things that “you won’t believe” are my least favourite model out there. Whereas, GE’s “Roadshow” campaign in partnership with Slate offered a list post that truly delivered on “13 game-changing innovations for 2013,” that I actually learned something from.

Mike McAvoy, president, The Onion
The ad should be created with the same craftsmanship as the editorial content that surrounds it. So how we approach our native-ad campaigns is to make sure the same creative minds that produce our award-winning content are executing these ideas,

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