Is Native Advertising the 'Next Big Thing'?

Let's be frank - as marketers, we love to know what the 'next big thing' is going to be. The past few years have seen the phenomenal growth of social media and the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets. But what will be the 'big thing' of 2013?  Native advertising may be a worthy candidate.So what is Native Advertising?  We like the definition coined by Solvemedia, an agency in the US:'Advertising that gives back to the consumer.'None the wiser?  To explain - most advertising is designed to be interruptive. It screams for the consumer's attention while they're trying to do something else - whether that be watching something on TV, reading an article in the press or online, or trying to make their way into work.Native advertising is designed to enhance the consumers experience - to help them do what they were already trying to do rather than interrupt them from doing it. At its best, native advertising adds value to the consumer. By being helpful, the brand earns brownie points by tapping into the law of reciprocation - if you do the consumer a favour, they'll do you a favour back - which may include visiting your site to start a purchase journey.So let's give you some practical examples of native advertising to help you to grasp the concept, because many of you will be employing this tactic without even realising it.Take paid for search. It's a prime example of native advertising.  The consumer expresses something they're trying to do via entering keywords into Google or Bing and receive organic and paid for results from advertisers that aim to solve the problem that the client has posed. It's genuinely helpful advertising and it adds value to the task the consumer is trying to achieve. In short, it ticks all the native advertising boxes.Branded content that dovetails seamlessly with existing publisher editorial also fits the bill. Take a promotion we created to give Lacoste's new Outdoor Urban Footwear range a credible music connection. Six new and up-coming artists were launched in the music magazine Clash with six double page advertorials as well as a digital hub and behind the scenes video that were easily shared on social platforms. We gave the Clash audience what they wanted - talented artists that hadn't yet hit the big time and the ability to share content from those artists with their peer group  - whilst achieving the aims of our client by building their awareness and credibility amongst an important audience for them.In a similar vein, we launched Kurt Geiger's new accessories range by creating a digital shareable accessorizing tool to the readers of Grazia. The tool added value for the readers of Grazia and their friends - allowing them to easily and quickly  understand which accessories would work with which outfits - whilst substantially increasing awareness and purchase intent for Kurt Geiger amongst that audience.Native advertising is not without its challenges. Blurring the line between what is editorial and what is sponsored content may erode the credibility of publications and switch off readers.  The content has to stand up as good editorial on its own, no matter how much money the brand is willing to pay the publisher.There's also a fine balance between the brand being helpful and the brand being visible. Too much profile for the brand may switch readers off. Too little, and they'll be no measurable benefit to the activity.And the boundaries of native advertising are still being defined. Some would argue that concepts such as Facebook's Sponsored Stories and Twitter's Promoted Tweets are native because they're almost seamlessly integrated into the user experience. Others would argue that they're not adding value, so they can't be native.There's no doubt that consumer  suspicion of the claims made in traditional advertising are continuing to grow and more are making active attempts to avoid interruptive advertising - whether that be via skipping video pre-roll ads, fast forwarding through the ads on their Sky Box or using online ad blockers.Hence it's no wonder that Solve Media found that 59% of media agencies in the US say native advertising is 'very important' and 49% of them would employ native advertising options for their clients.Whether or not native advertising is the 'big thing' of 2013, there's no doubt it's going to grow.If you'd like to explore native advertising opportunities for your brand, get in contact with Graham, Cream's MD.

Six new and up-coming artists were launched in-book with six double page advertorials (marketed as editorial), as well as a digital hub, homepage takeover and behind the scenes video that were easily shared on social platforms extending the reach amongst the Clash community and beyond. The readers were invited to go online either on the Clash website or Facebook to watch the behind the scenes footage and exclusive interviews.