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How a premium publisher from Croatia built an award-winning native ad studio

How do you launch a native ad studio in a traditional media company? How do you sell native advertising in a traditional market? What is the right way to organise the in-house production team? Should the manager have a commercial or an editorial background?

This article is reproduced with thanks to Native Advertising Institute, a FIPP member. See the original article here. Jesper Laursen, CEO of Native Advertising Institute, will lead a panel discussion on native advertising at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October 2017 in London, the UK. Meet him there.

Native Advertising Institute asked Ana Plisic, editorial director at Hanza Media Native Ad Studio, who spoke at Native Advertising DAYS 2016 in Berlin.

Hanza Media is a premium publisher and a leading media company in Croatia with 39 print and digital titles ranging from the magazine Cosmopolitan to newspapers. The Native Ad Studio is in charge of conceptualising, producing and distributing branded content. Hanza Media was among the winners at Native Advertising Awards 2016.

Below are highlights from the interview, which have been slightly edited for clarity.

A drop in the ad market paved the way for native

“We were facing a drop of the ad market in Croatia. Advertisers went to television chasing shares regardless of the impact of their advertising. So our position as a gateway to the premium audience was in danger. Furthermore we wanted to offer our audience an uninterrupted experience as well as to offer the advertisers more effective advertisement. That’s why we recognised the potential in native advertising as one of the strong pillars in our growth strategy.”

Related: How publishers can set-up a successful in-house native ad studio

20-25 people are working on native projects on ad hoc basis

“Native Ad Studio is run by two people at the moment with a strong background in editorial, business, art and design. We didn’t want to apply a traditional agency model. Instead we chose to experiment with ‘ad hoc teams’ in order to get the best set of skills for each project and the best set of knowledge. So we have around 20 to 25 people working on a project. Our native products are not just content but also infographics, video and events. We want to deliver a 360 experience to engage brands, customers and our readers.”

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How to gain trust

“By launching the new model in a traditional media we had to gain trust from brands, readers and the newsroom because this was the first time that a publisher worked so closely with brands both on strategies and execution. Hanza Media have been recognised on the market for its independent and investigative journalism, distinguished tone and the best writers, so we also had to gain trust from the readers that are used to our premium content, so our native ad products have to be of the same quality – or even higher – than the editorial content.”

“Brands were a bit confused at first” 

“The way we work with brands is to build partnerships in order to promote value not the product, so in our native pieces we don’t talk about products, we don’t mention brand names except if we are using their experts to talk about trends within the industry and position them as thought leaders. Every native ad is clearly labelled as ‘brought to you by’ and we have a declaration at the end that say this piece of content has been produced by Native Ad Studio and the brand – applying the highest professional standards of the platform.

The brand’s at first were a little bit confused about why they had to pay for so expensive content if they are not mentioned at all within the piece. However due to the high quality of our native pieces and the fact that we managed to engage lot of their customers, they got used to it and today they understand more and more that it is important to talk with the customers about their needs and not about the brands themselves and their products”

The key metric 

“Our key metric is attention time – it means the time spent within the piece, then secondly traffic. The most important is engagement time and how to engage the readers and to make them share the piece and like the piece, talk about that piece within their social networks. In the beginning the market was sceptical because what we were offering was a very expensive product and they hadn’t yet recognise the value, but after a couple of native campaigns and after months of working with many clients, they recognised the value and that the quality of the content really matters.”

Free e-book: Native Advertising Predictions for 2017: 23 Experts Share Their Insights

TheNative Ad Studio manager has to have a strong editorial background

“I have been working within my company for more than 15 years as an editor and deputy editor-in-chief. I went to the UK to do a master’s program in digital media management and when I came back I switched side and went to the business part of the publishing company. It’s a challenging and different experience but at the same time it’s very interesting and I think useful both for the publisher and for the newsroom and for myself.

I think that it’s quite important that the head of the native team has a strong editorial background. Content is king and who is the king in creating the content? It’s the editorial team. I believe that only someone with a strong editorial experience can do native but you also have to have a business understanding. You have to understand the advertising landscape, you have to understand the brands fully, you have to understand the new models that arise in the digital era and the new customers.”

A word of advice 

“I would advise other traditional companies and publishers that are sceptic about native advertising at the moment to try to experiment but to be aware that the quality of the native ad is really very important and that they have to apply the highest standards for native ads.”

Jesper Laursen, CEO of Native Advertising Institute, will lead a panel discussion on native advertising at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October 2017 in London, the UK. Meet him there.

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