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Tom Chapman
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6 Native Advertising Campaigns That Didn’t P*** People Off

| 20 May 2015

What is magic? I’d say it’s masterful disguise, an inexplicable means to yield a pretty benign result. Pets at Home stock affordable bunny rabbits, no black hats needed. My “bah humbug” grown-up self has realised magic doesn’t get the scratch card numbers right. Sadly, age makes realists of us all and with that comes a desire for transparency, not trickery.

Blending in with the Natives

Transparency is vital in native advertising, where money changing hands can cast doubt over the objectivity of content. Conversely though, it is also about seamlessly slipping into your customer’s sphere undetected. How to marry the two?

Brilliant native advertising blurs the line by providing relevant, entertaining and engaging content that distinguishes a brand as a thought leader, industry expert or entertainer. Let’s face it, paying to preach isn’t exactly an endearing quality, so push your products too hard and you’ll push your customers away. Offer them insider knowledge or make them laugh, and they’ll be putty in your hands. When it works it works:

- People view native ads 53% more than banner ads

32% of consumers said they would share a native ad with friends and family compared with 19% for banner ads

Purchase intent is 53% higher with native ads

- Native advertising produces as much as an 82% increase in brand lift

- Viewers spend nearly the same amount of time reading editorial content as they do native ads

Rooting your Turf

To embark on a native advertising campaign you need to know your audience and where to find them. Content then needs to be tailored not only to suit the audience, but also to reflect the tone and style of the publisher. What you don’t want to do is disrupt readers experience and erode trust and confidence. A poll found 61% of respondents believe sponsored advertising can tarnish reputation, so it’s important to push products aside and run the extra mile.

Above all you need to be transparent without deflecting from your cause. Make the content so tantalising that readers are compelled to viewing without realizing they’re being marketed to. Here are six juicy examples to get your mind racing:

New York Times and Netflix: Orange is the New Black

Netflix built a story around its women in prison series and used the New York Times to publish paid content. It produced an article along with videos and infographics that explored the wider topic, providing readers with insight and first-hand accounts of life behind bars. The tone and style of the work aligned smoothly with that of the newspaper, and it was clear from the get-go that the content was sponsored.

Buzzfeed and Game of Thrones: How Would you Die In Game of Thrones?

Game of Thrones identified Buzzfeed as an interactive portal popular with many of its potential fans and used this platform to generate a quiz prior to the start of its fourth season. It worked because it entertains and interacts with readers, without disrupting them as they browse Buzzfeed. Moreover, it’s shareable content, enabling the brand to spread its reach quickly.

Huffington Post and Chipotle: Food For Thought

Chipotle defined itself as a thought leader on food and sustainability by joining forces with the Huffington Post to generate educational and informative stories on the topic. It cleverly identified a key trend and leveraged it without product-pushing.

The Onion and Starbucks: Scientists Posit Theoretical Productive Weekend

Starbucks posted a jovial and light-hearted article on The Onion which was exactly in-keeping with the satirical nature of the outlet. The brand didn’t try to hide, instead it integrated its name in a joke at the end of the article, about using its new double espresso to kick-start productivity.

Forbes and Gap International: Six Defining Traits of the Successful 21st Century Organization

As a financial and business news platform, the founder and CEO of Gap used Forbes to share her expertise on growing a successful organization, while at the same time defining Gap as a reputable brand led by a smart woman. There wasn’t a whiff of product-promotion except to define her title, so to readers it came across purely as an interesting article from someone in-the-know.

Facebook and Amnesty International: Trial by Timeline

The human rights charity got its voice heard by producing an algorithm that could trawl your Facebook page to spot anything that could be used against you in countries where basic human rights are lacking. The user received a summary of punishments and which countries issued them. Amnesty acknowledged that its cause was alien to many people, so instead of holding out its hands for money, it leveraged emotions by bringing its work to life. The campaign reached over 200 countries, and more than 15 million people.

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