You’re Probably Doing It Wrong

“The more a piece of content looks like genuine editorial content, the more valuable it becomes.” —Felix Salmon, Reuters

Felix Salmon’s quote succinctly describes the value point for native or content marketing—it’s a way for an advertiser to hold the attention of its target audience without the audience member realizing it’s being marketed to.

Done effectively, a relatively cheap-to-produce piece of content can be worth tens of thousands—maybe even millions—for the advertiser.

Buzzfeed has pioneered native content marketing and drawn many brands to the site to populate the native feed with sponsored content. Unfortunately, some of the sponsored content falls short of the mark; it’s clearly advertising fodder.

Consider this example from Zipcar:

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Zipcar is a relatively small brand, but the offense is being committed by big brands as well, shown by this example from Pepsi:

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In both examples, readers can already see that the content is sponsored by a particular brand. It’s overkill to tease the content with lines such as “Don’t worry, city people, Zipcar has you covered” or “Just like Pepsi NEXT, which you have to drink to believe.” Native advertising requires subtly; the content must both attract and hold the reader’s attention but the actual marketing being done should be tough to spot, findable only if the reader is looking for it.

As reported by Digiday, “The rush to embrace content as an alternative to banners will result in shortcuts and a temptation to lose focus on the reader.” I’d argue it’s already happening— by both small and large brands alike. As more brands like Zipcar and Pepsi utilize native advertising poorly, readers will lose attention and begin to ignore the content, thereby dampening the effectiveness of native advertising for everybody.