Native content Archives - Tan Media

engaging content student audience

Why engaging with students requires engaging content

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, Education, Native advertising

The shifting landscape

Declining application numbers have been a shock to the system across the higher education sector and have led to several major shifts. This year we witnessed a squeeze at the top, with the highest ranked 20 institutions competing for the brightest. Russell Group universities accepted ABB in the summer which had a knock-on effect right down the rankings and led universities to rethink their recruitment strategies.

Students are aware that it’s a buyer’s market, so are now shopping around, visiting multiple campuses to find the perfect university for them. Others are leaving it later to apply and some are waiting until August in the knowledge that even higher ranked institutions will offer places through clearing and confirmation.

Last year St George’s University became the first to offer medicine through clearing. This year, universities that used to mop up their last few places on results day, still had courses available days after to accommodate for late demand. Most institutions now offer a clearing open day to engage with students before they apply.

Making a first impression

The university is a unique institution, in that it’s marketing team must work to a particular cycle, communicating with a largely new audience each year. This presents a great opportunity to fine-tune your brand over time.

As a result, it’s crucial to make a high quality and lasting first impression with each student, each year. It makes such a difference if potential students understand who you are and what you’re all about before they are signposted towards course lists, prospectuses and open days.

student content

The power of your brand

With tightening budgets to work to, most unis are opting for high-intensity campaigns at key periods – January deadline, open days and clearing. This offers maximum impact and ensures that students are given every opportunity to register or apply. A downside of this strategy is that ads that feel transactional are less likely to influence students in making an important decision.

This problem is compounded by the intensity of competition for share of voice, making it hard to be heard above the crowd. Students are likely to see multiple university ads in a day, so how can any one ad stand out above the rest? Will students click on the first one they see? The most colourful? The most relevant? The most impressive stat?

Or will it be a brand that they have engaged with before and feel they recognise and want to explore further?

Education agency, SMRS, recently drew attention to the importance of brand in their HE marketing survey. 97% of respondents pointed to the increased importance of brand, above other recent impacts such as Brexit and the Teaching Excellence Framework.

student content

Being inspirational

When we talk about online brand engagement, we refer to the execution of meaningful, prolonged interactions with university content. Campaigns are often judged on the price of their clicks and the traffic they drive to a site, but this isn’t always the best way to build lasting and impactful brand awareness. Sometimes we should look beyond the click to really understand the results of a piece of activity.

We should consider the potential student’s experience and ask ourselves what students want from their interaction. If the aim is to win hearts and minds, we can’t be pushy, sending students to fill out a form without having something to offer. Universities are great at producing content but not so good at sharing it!

Departments, lecturers and student groups produce fascinating research every day and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that grabs attention and excites young people about getting stuck in and starting their student journey.

Be the one to spark that idea, that conversation, that inspiration, whilst quietly reinforcing your brand identity as an authority on the subject.

Engaging with a digital generation

The last few years have seen the rise of programmatic display ads which have led to campaigns that mine for direct response, opting for quantity over quality. At the same time, a digitally savvy generation has started holding advertisers to a higher standard. To have a chance of generating quality engagement with potential students, interactions have to become less transactional and more inspirational. To get engagement you must be engaging!

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mobile content

Top tips on writing engaging mobile content

By | Content, Content Marketing

Today’s constantly-connected consumers crave content that’s simple to digest and can be accessed from anywhere, and from any device. Hence why mobile is booming.

Rather than me try to put forward a convincing argument, I’ll let the figures speak for themselves. The latest IAB and PwC Digital Adspend report, which we contribute to each year, unveiled that half of UK internet time is now spent on smartphones. This has caused mobile’s share of digital ad spend to rocket from 35% to 43% in just one year, or £2.37bn.

Mobile’s growth means that it now accounts for 57% of all display ad spend and a whopping 77% of all content and native ad spend.

If you’re yet to optimise your content for the small screen, you’re already missing out on an unprecedented opportunity to win over your target audience.

So, if you want to perfect your penmanship skills and fine-tune your mobile copy, here are some top tips for writing compelling content to engage your readers:

mobile content

Short ‘n’ snappy

Did you know that humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish? Which, coincidentally, has been blamed on our use of digital devices. Mobile readers don’t want the arduous task of scrolling through lengthy paragraphs – they’ll switch off in seconds. So, break up the text into short, digestible chunks whenever there’s a natural break. Just remember the golden rule: say what needs to be said, using as few words as possible.

Hook ‘em with headlines and subheads

Continuing the short-and-sweet theme, your headlines need to be to the point, pack a punch, and have a pinch of mystery to them that’ll encourage readers to click through. I know, it’s a lot to ask. The best piece of advice I can give is to think like you’re tweeting (even though you’re not). You want your headlines to be worthy of a re-tweet – scan the social site when you next have five minutes for some inspiration.

Now you’ve got your readers’ interest, you need to keep hold of it with equally engaging subheads. The most effective ones guide readers through the article; they’re snappy, yet provide new and insightful information. Tie-in your subheads with the title, make the font bold and you’ve got yourself a seriously scannable piece of content.

mobile content

Frontload fantastic copy

In the same way, a film trailer entices us to watch the full-length flick, the first few sentences of your article are absolutely crucial for drawing readers in. And so, it must be your very best, attention-grabbing writing. You need to tee-up your article in an original and exciting way. Potential readers will be asking, ‘How will this article benefit me?’ and it’s your job to answer them.

Break it up with bullet points and visuals

Subheads make for scannable content, but you can break up the text even further with bullet points and images. Bullet points, for their part, allow you to convey the article’s key messages in a more digestible manner. They can be used to summarise the content, explain product features and/or benefits, or as a checklist in an advice piece.

Readers can’t get enough of visual content. When people hear information, they’re likely to remember 10% of it three days later. But add a relevant picture and they’ll remember 65% of that information. And, get this: articles with an image every 75-100 words receive double the social media shares as articles with fewer images.

mobile content

As consumers are so stimulated by visual content, you should strive to embed engaging, relevant images and videos within your articles whenever possible.

Writing marvellous mobile copy doesn’t mean writing fewer words. Instead, it’s about making every single word on that digital page count. It’s about formatting articles in an eye-catching way, whilst communicating original ideas that’ll resonate with your audience long after they’ve closed the page.


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Why native advertising is having an identity crisis

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Native advertising

I’ve just read an extremely thought provoking article on what I believe to be the biggest challenge to both the native advertising industry (publishers and networks) and media agencies looking to sell native in to clients.

I didn’t just read Chad Pollitt’s piece ‘Native Advertising has a Terminology Problem. And It’s Not Pretty.’ once through – I read it three times. Not because Chad didn’t make sense, but because we’ve got to the stage where even for someone in the thick of this industry, I was still briefly confused.

If someone who works day in, day out in native advertising is having to re-read definitions, then what hope do media buyers (working across multiple platforms, media and formats) have? If one person’s native is Outbrain, and another’s long-form content on a premium publisher, then we have a problem. And that’s before we even look at the myriad of hybrids in the UK market.

Back to basics

Perhaps, it’s best to start with what most people agree is the definition of native advertising:

“Native advertising is paid advertising (media) where the ad matches the form, feel and function of the content of the media on which it appears.” (Native Advertising Institute)

This snappy description seems bulletproof, but it only tells half the story. It accurately describes the sponsored headline unit, the social media sponsored post – the shop window if you like. It’s what happens next which really defines the native format. What happens once the user has read the headline and clicked?

It’s all about the content

This brings us to the content. There’s long been confusion in the market between content marketing and native advertising.

This is one of the easier definitions to solve: Content marketing = your brand content. Native = the distribution channel. I could get into content marketing vs advertorial here (not overtly mentioning your product vs it being all about your product) but that will have to wait for another day.

Social media is somewhat ‘ronseal’ – a sponsored tweet looks like any other tweet, the same for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. These usually contain heightened CTAs such as the ‘Learn more’ or ‘Shop now’ banner on Instagram, before clicking to brand sites. Often, the post is simply re-targeting.

There is content, right?

So, what about the traditional publisher’s site? This is where it gets confusing for media buyers. I’d argue it’s all about what happens post-click. This is where the definition of native advertising seems to be far too broad. Any of the following could happen – the headline unit:

  • leads to content on the same publisher’s site
  • leads to content hosted on the brand site
  • opens up a lightbox containing brand content
  • plays video
  • doesn’t actually lead to any content at all. It’s a headline unit that simply clicks to a product page!

Essentially, your headline unit could behave in several different ways and in some instances, is no more than a re-badged direct response banner ad.

Here’s my attempt to clarify the main (non-video) formats on publisher’s sites:

Native advertising (sponsored content)

Non-programmatic, publisher direct sold headline units that lead to article pages in the same premium environment.

True Native (sponsored content)

Non-programmatic, ad served headline units that lead to article pages in the same premium environment.

Native display

An in-feed headline unit on a publisher site that clicks to a brand site which may or may not contain content marketing. Usually programmatic demand from exchanges and often re-targeting.

Content recommendation

The likes of Outbrain, Taboola and Rev. Self-serve headline units which click out, usually in blocks of 6 or 12 at the bottom of article pages. Usually DR campaigns or arbitrage.

Should ‘native advertising’ be redefined?

Chad argues that the confusion in the market is all about the definitions of types of content, I’d argue that there’s far more confusion over what a headline unit does.

Perhaps now is the time to separate premium sponsored content (in editorial environments) from what recent IAB UK native conference called ‘next generation display advertising’. Perhaps, the term ‘native advertising’ has had its day!


5 trends for native advertising in 2017

By | Content Marketing, Marketing, Native advertising, Technology, Videos

Having firmly established its place on media plans over the past year, content & native in-feed advertising accounted for an impressive 29% of display in 2016. So, what does the new year hold for native? Here’s 5 trends we’ll be keeping a close eye on:

Measurement, Measurement, Measurement

When someone as gigantic as Facebook struggles with metrics, the spotlight really falls on if a 3 second video view really is engagement, or simply someone scrolling past to consume more of the thing they were actually there for in the first place? There’s also been plenty of talk about moving away from obsessing over clicks, so perhaps 2017 will be the year when quality of engagement trumps sheer quantity.

Viewability remains a red hot topic

I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this, having just purchased an Americano. Unsurprisingly it filled the cup. Had it only have been 70% full, I’d have asked why and certainly wouldn’t have paid full price. Remarkably, media agencies are still asking ‘how viewable’ our inventory is so they can price this in. We’ve always delivered native on a vCPM (a 100% viewable CPM) – others are moving towards a CPV or CPE (costs per view or engagement) – one thing is for sure though, the days of charging for unseen impressions must finally be coming to an end.

Trust becomes ever more important

In the new era of ‘fake news’ the credibility of brand content becomes increasingly important. Spammy headlines that lead to unrelated content are bad news for both the sites they appear on and the companies using them. Expect to see big brands becoming more cautious about placements and being seen alongside other campaigns with less credible clickbait creative.

Picture-perfect! The increasing use of visual formats

Video distribution has been one of the fastest growing areas of online advertising so it’s easy to forget the power of great photography. We’ve already worked with some great photo essays for brands. There’s also plenty of hype around 360 VR – our team has been experimenting with this on mobile and it looks fantastic – expect to see more.

Rejection of interruptive formats

Ad blocking continued to be the hot topic during the past year. It was hard to find anyone to disagree with the fact that the industry had brought this upon themselves by annoying the hell out of people – obscuring the content that audiences were there to consume. Many publishers are turning their backs on these formats realising that it creates massive UX issues.

Stay-on-site True Native is just one way to create a non-interruptive user experience whist maintaining revenues. If 2016 was the year of interruption, 2017 is definitely shaping up to be the year of usability and engagement. The two really do go hand in hand.

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Native content guaranteed to get completely viewed

By | Marketing, Native advertising

Well, not just the native content, but all online content. Now that online activity on mobiles has overtaken that on laptops and desktops, it makes no sense that the mobile user should have a worse experience when viewing content.

This is a great example of an industry that is driving its own standards up and not waiting to be told it must improve. The actual required standard for ‘viewability’, set by the Media Ratings Council, is 50% of the ad’s pixels to be visible on screen for one second; in other words, if that standard is met, the ad is deemed to satisfy the contract terms.

Seeing is believing

But the industry says that’s just not good enough, nothing less than 100% is acceptable. And that is exactly what is happening with several of the leading players, such as Nativo and inPowered, giving the guarantee that if anything less than 100% of the ad is visible, the client pays nothing.

To add credibility to the promise, Nativo have tapped online intelligence and analytics specialists Moat to provide the essential third party verification.

So that sets the bar for the technical side of ad design, but what about the content quality?

Once again, the leading lights of the industry are setting the pace with inPowered offering guarantees on viewer engagement too, defined as the proportion of viewers staying for at least 15 seconds or sharing. Hold your breath and count to 15 slowly and you realise that it is quite a long time in surfing terms and really does mean that content standards will have to be pretty sharp to honour the pledge. Once again, no engagement, no pay.

Reading is engaging

All content providers will have to learn what native advertisers have been mastering for some years: engagement created by good writing and graphics matched to the tone and category of the publication. A good headline and a rewarding first paragraph soon takes the reader to the point of no return where they want to read to the end.

That is going to be a challenge for those producing display ads that have long been designed on the basis of making the most of a two second or less engagement with the viewer. In the new world that means you’ve got another 13 seconds to fill if you want to get paid and, let’s face it, there are only so many videos of dogs on skateboards and cute kiddies falling asleep in their food that the world can take.

So, new standards have been set for both technical viewability and content engagement backed by hard cash guarantees. This is digital marketing’s version of ‘it does what it says on the tin’ – a promise of effectiveness.

Of course, that has always been a part of native folklore handed down through the generations; entertain, inform and show respect and 15 seconds stretches to become a long-term customer relationship.

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mobile devices

Native Content – star of the small screen

By | Native advertising

Ever since the iPhone was launched, people have been predicting the end of the laptop and desktop computers as we know them. This month the world moved a step nearer to that prediction as, for the first time, internet activity via mobile devices overtook that of their less portable brethren.

For adults that means 2hrs 26mins online via smartphone or tablet per day, against 2hrs 13 mins online via the desktop. Some would say that’s more of a draw than a whitewash; until that is, you look at the trends. Since 2011 that figure for the desktop has grown year on year by 3 minutes, or about 2.25%, while mobile online usage has increased by about 500% over the same period.

No Contest

Not, of course, that this is a competition; but it certainly is a challenge – especially for the creators of the content that all this online action demands.

Internet surfers today are very, very savvy and they know exactly what good looks like; some have been there right from the beginning and many of the rest think it’s always been here, like the land, sea and sky; a gift of nature. The internet today is like another place, a parallel electronic existence and, like any place, if it doesn’t look good then people just don’t want to come.

So how do you make something look just as good on a four inch screen as it does on a 48 inch screen, especially when the same visitor may view the same material on both extremes at some time during the day?

The worst possible strategy is designing for the big screen and just hoping most of the content can be seen on the mobile one. Nor do you want to design only for the small screen and end up with something that looks like weirdly out of scale on the desktop.

The bottom line of course, is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to content design. Anyone who wants a successful web presence must invest in a version optimised for mobile, desktop and all options in between; and that means intelligent design.

Think User

A small picture on a desk top screen is a small picture; on the mobile it would be a dot. Scroll on a desktop and you can scan the content; scrolling the same stuff on a mobile and it’s a blur followed by a migraine.

For the mobile it’s short sentences, clear graphics and, because it’s a little more effort to view because your audience might be walking, on a train or plane, or simply taking a quick time out at the work-station, the most important thing is engagement; you must engage to reward that extra effort.

Of course, guess what native content is really good at? Engagement. Native and mobile devices are perfect for each other; you’re not fighting the viewer for attention, trying to distract them, you’re the reason they’re looking, because you’re engaging, entertaining and relevant; just a little smaller, that’s all.

If you’re still asking yourself ‘what is native advertising?‘ or would like to know more about how a native advertising platform can help, why not get in touch and one of the team will be happy to help.

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create or to curate content

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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That native look is star of the fashion catwalk

By | Native advertising

The news that Condé Nast is now seriously backing native content at the corporate level is exciting on many different levels. Of course, the very fact that such a well-established and influential group, boasting such assets as Vanity Fair, Wired, Vogue and GQ among its titles, is recognising that native is the way of the future is a major faith injection for those who have been beating the native drum since the start.

Perhaps more significant though, is what players like Condé Nast will do in setting the benchmarks of excellence for the quality of native content, as well as the quantity. Fashion and lifestyle titles have always been the canvass on which advertising creative show what they can do, both visually and with the power of headlines. Creative budgets for producing clothes and cosmetics ads for the glossies can outstrip even the ad space costs for other product sectors.

Fashion and motoring are possibly two areas where the magazine buyer is consciously buying the ads as well as the editorial content. Some of the photography in the ads is genuinely of art-house standards and a strap-line such as ‘because you’re worth it’ shows the power of a few good words. With motoring even the most mundane of cars can be made to look pretty good with great art direction, and really good cars can be made to toe-curlingly amazing.

One of the challenges for native advertising is going to be driving up the quality of content when the media is full of good native content and good editorial. The developing relationship between the editorial teams and the advertisers’ creative teams is going to be very interesting indeed; will it be an idyllic collaboration based on mutual respect, or will it be bitter ethnic turf wars as advertising bred writers battle with the journalistic genes of the media scribes?

That Condé Nast’s corporate adoption of native advertising and sponsored content, the very names framing the subtle difference in perspective, includes the expansion of their resources to actually produce the content for the client perhaps give a hint. It’s a very logical move; it is, after all, in the essence of native that the content should be specific to the medium and blend seamlessly with the unsponsored editorial. It also means that the Group capture the revenue that would have otherwise gone to the ad producers, which could go some way to underwriting any pressure on cover prices.

Somehow this seems much more than the ‘advertorial’ fads of previous generations; this is a major cultural change at a time when the media, in all its glorious explosion of social, broadcast, digital and glossy hard copy forms, has changed the very landscape of our culture. Whether editorial or sponsored content, both publishers and advertisers know that it will be the consumer who drives the quality standards, because if they don’t like the content, there’s lots of other stuff just a click away.

Native advertising producers know that, so do the customers; that’s why it works so well.