Monday, 19 August 2013

Going Native

For many 18-25 year olds, the second tab open after Facebook is Buzzfeed. It’s read across the world and sees millions of visitors every day. The potential of that is un-missable, and now the biggest and the brightest are catching on.

Native advertising means cloaking an advertisement amongst entertaining, seemingly agenda-less content. For example, ’15 Reasons why we wish we were Brad Pitt’, outwardly a commonplace article within Buzzfeed’s largely list driven content, is likely to be promoting Pitt’s new film – a fact you won’t be aware of until you reach the subtle plug at the end of the article.

Does it work? Some believe it’s the smartest thing since viral videos, whilst others think it’s pointless – personally I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

One of the major benefits of native advertising is its unobtrusiveness, you’re too subtle to become annoying, you can post all you want, and as long as your content stays cool, your brand doesn’t run the risk of becoming overexposed.

However, it’s this very subtlety that prompts argument about the actual effectiveness of this medium.

The nature of Buzzfeed means your audience is constantly moving. Most users will skim through multiple posts throughout the day, because the top story is always changing. Buzzfeed is the McDonalds of online content, it’s quick, it’s easy but it isn’t particularly memorable.

To make native advertising work, you have to settle on a theme that ties your posts together, and makes them form a cohesive, memorable, narrative.  A great example of this is the #BreakFree thread from Virgin Live. The theme is that Virgin Live users ‘break free’ from the usual – so ’16 reasons being old doesn’t have to suck’ or ’15 animals that don’t know their place in the animal kingdom’ are just one part of a consistent message. The repeated #BreakFree at the end of the post, and the continuation of one theme makes the content memorable, and links it strongly to VirginLive.

In summary native advertising can be great if your strategy is right – otherwise your brand can get lost amongst the content.