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What is ‘true native’ advertising?

PRDAILY.COM, DECEMBER 14, 2016 -- Although many PR pros think native advertising is new, it’s actually one of the oldest forms of paid advertising.

In 1895, John Deere launched a magazine called The Furrow, which successfully offered non-intrusive tips for farmers.

In today’s marketing climate, consumers own 3.64 connected devices each. Advertisers must produce effective digital campaigns that can cut through the noise in a crowded industry.

Unfortunately, many face an uphill battle due to an increase in ad blockers, consumer weariness over intrusive banner ads, the devaluation of impressions as internet currency and rampant fraud.

Enter native advertising, which is expected to reach $21 billion in 2018. My organization's clients are succeeding with native advertising, but they’re not immune to issues including lack of scalability, inconsistent ROI measurement, overreliance on upfront impressions and the devaluation of high-quality content.

To achieve native advertising success, look at the early triumphs of a few familiar brands:

General Mills

When radio emerged, General Mills had success airing a radio show called “Jack Armstrong, the American Boy,” which didn’t mention their cereal, but positioned it alongside a fictional role-model. The concept was simple; if the kids want to be like the attractive Jack Armstrong, then they will want to eat the same cereal he does.

Procter & Gamble

P&G capitalized on the invention of television in the 1940s by producing what are now called “soap operas.” The organization produced a handful of shows as well as more than 50 TV-movies that boosted the brand’s image and market share.

In the digital age, marketers are spoiled with a perplexing number of tools, platforms and outlets for targeting consumers. Though a native approach is proving effective, there are still many pitfalls, which have led rise to the emergence of “true native” advertising.

What does a true native approach entail?

The primary difference between native and true native is boundaries. Boundaries can be any action that is required for a user to consume native content. The content should feel authentic and on brand with your current marketing approach.

Take print, for example. A true native ad would live on a page of the newspaper and require only that your eyes view the content. Nothing fancy, there.

WORKSHOP: Become your own media outlet and apply journalistic practices within your organization

When users move from one content site to another online, though, the publisher or brand is often paying for that visit. The brand has just executed a native ad experience before the click, so whatever image and text they used to bait the consumer becomes their actual native experience, rather than the content on the next page where they seek to drive the user.

Essentially, the only native aspect the brand received was on that initial click. Once a user crosses boundaries to engage, it’s no longer native. Generally, the bait never delivers on its promise, and the consumer often feels tricked or let down.

True native is ingrained in the site where the user is consuming content. It’s just another piece of content for them to engage with. There is no required click to gain access to that content, and the user doesn’t have to be buttered up to drive engagement.

Most true native platforms are manual and require working directly with the publisher to create sponsored content and get approvals from brand managers before launching. Although it might take time, the approach has proved wildly effective in terms of reaching consumers with genuine, high-quality content.

Zack Brown is the vice president of Optimal Fusion, an integrated media company. He's the creator of Fuze 360.