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The 7 Habits of Successful Native Advertisers

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Native advertising is more than just a new, convenient advertising format. What we are seeing is in fact the evolution of online advertising, of how it is created and consumed; native advertising is the first truly native-to-digital-ad-format in existence.  

Native advertising has risen out of the primordial swamp of competing online advertising formats that characterized the first twenty years of the internet and is evolving – thanks to its fluidity, accessibility and innovation – to become the most dominant form of digital advertising. 

The people practicing native advertising today are at the cutting edge of digital advertising creativity, not just in the traditional ‘creative’ big idea-led approach to advertising, but in the use of technology and data, too. Planner buyers, ad-ops teams and programmatic executives are part of this native advertising creativity just as much as copywriters, commercial editors and designers. 

Whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram as your social platform, or you’re experimenting with other content recommendations and native advertising technologies, there are several key traits that make a successful native advertiser... 

1. Start-up attitude

Whether you work for a large organization, you’re a student, or a solo business owner, the very best native advertisers have a start-up mentality. What do we mean by this? They are pioneers. They are energetic and open to new ideas and possibilities. They have imagination. They can see opportunity where others see only obstacles. They are happy to embrace change, have an eagerness to experiment, and, crucially, always look to learn. For them, a closed-door is something they need to kick open, not move away from. 

2. 'The feed'

Our lives increasingly rotate around 'the feed'. We look for stories on the feed; we share our own stories on the feed; our likes, dislikes, interests and tastes are cultivated on the feed. Without the feed, our lives are incomparably dull. Any effective native advertiser needs to instinctively be aware of this. The success or failure of your native advertising will depend on how it works infeed. Native advertisers that get the feed, get the importance of headlines: this is the one part of your advertising message that 100% of your target audience will see, whether they click on it or not. Interesting content is the only way to interact with your audience across the feed. Native advertising formats are the only way to successfully deliver this content and get any sort of engagement. 

3. Content is king

You are nothing online if you do not create content. Content in its myriad different forms is the currency that digital marketers use to engage, interact and influence their customers. To be an effective native advertiser you need to be aware of the value of content. You need to think like a publisher; think like your audience and then tailor your advertising messages towards them with relevant, interesting content. Without it, you can’t expect to fully reap the benefits of native advertising.  

4. Understand advertising

This is something that often gets overlooked when talking about native advertising. Remember the point behind you doing this is to build your brand and, ultimately, to sell more. A lot is written about engagement in modern advertising – thanks to digital and changing consumer relationships with advertising – success today is all about quietly offering up an opportunity to engage with your target customer via good content at numerous touch-points. This is true. But how do you engage someone you don’t know without disturbing them first? From my experience, your customers do not mind being interrupted if it is done in an informative or humorous way. So remember the advertising element in native advertising. 

5. Know what success looks like

Each type of native advertising has its rightful, effective place in the marketing mix. It’s such a broad term that saying you run native advertising is almost equivalent to saying you run ‘adverts online.’ To be an effective native advertiser you need to be able to understand the difference between each native advertising product in existence – and choose which one is right for you. 

Different native advertising formats work in different ways. Different strategies deliver different results. The best native advertisers know what success looks like. They know what they want (and can) achieve at the start of a campaign, not at the end of it. They create native strategies with this mind and execute these goals. This is what you should do too.

6. Understand technology and data

Native advertising technology sits at the cutting edge of digital advertising. Whether it’s using data and targeting to effectively deliver ever-more nuanced content-led advertising messages; simplification of the buying model and the introduction of real-time optimizations via programmatic; or the adoption of ground-breaking artificial intelligence, native advertising is built on technological innovation. The very best native advertisers and native campaigns fully utilize this technology to generate results. They embrace new technology, not run away from it. 

7. It's a team effort

The best native advertisers always recognize that they cannot do everything themselves. The best advertisers are always part of a team. Native advertising works best when there is buy-in from the very top of an organization and your entire business recognizes the value of your content-led advertising proposition.