“I think a lot of brands have not stepped into native advertising yet because they don’t understand how to make it successful or because they doubt its value,” says Stephanie Losee, head of content at Visa Corporate Communications.
The Native Advertising Institute interviewed Stephanie Losee when she was a speaker at Native Advertising DAYS.
Below are highlights from the interview which have been slightly edited for clarity.
Useful metrics for brands
“I think a lot of brands have not stepped into native advertising yet because they don’t understand how to make it successful or because they doubt its value. And why wouldn’t they doubt its value?
Native advertising is very much a work in progress and the metrics are confusing. Should we really be embracing publisher metrics? I don’t think we should.
So when a brand is doing native and then they’re hearing that the results are this many views, this many clicks… that’s not helping because that doesn’t answer the true question.
Why did you do this in the first place? You did it to persuade people, you did it to change minds, you did it to make a new impression, to make a new point, not to get a view impression.
So you have to think about what is the result of the campaign in terms of whether you made someone think something or do something that they weren’t thinking or doing before they saw your content.”
It makes sense to do in-house
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach for all brands. I do think that brands of a certain size should absolutely invest in an in-house content studio.
I think that it makes sense for all of us to do in-house whatever we reasonably can do and to not rely on agencies for everything.
But headcount is hard to come by at companies and you have to balance the marketing and communication departments’ overall needs. It’s a tough balance to achieve. But when you can spare the headcount for an in-house team, it can be invaluable because that in-house team understands the company’s messages, business goals, reputational goals better than anyone.
If there are enough people on an in-house team to govern the agency work in a way that creates more impactful resulting work at the end, then I think you’ve achieved the right approach for your brand.”
Native advertising should start at the end
“I think the secret to creating great native advertising is to ensure that you have found the right publisher. The right publisher is the one with the right audience to get a message that’s organic to that publisher’s audience but that has a lovely straightforward tie to your brand in front of them.
I think that native advertising should be chosen based on the publisher. You’re trying to reach that publisher’s audience — that’s why you’re doing this in the first place — and then you should build backwards from there. It should be a backwards creation strategy.
You shouldn’t create something and then try to think about where to do it, where to post it.
I think that when you’re conceiving of a particular campaign where one tactic might be native, you would then say, ‘okay, so I have a native component. Where is the place that that missing portion of my campaign should lie, should reside?’ Then you think about the publisher that can close that gap.
Then you think about the content that should go in front of that publisher’s audience. Then you work with that team at the publisher to enlist their help in creating the right pieces for their audience. Because they know their audience far better than you ever could, which is why you’re leaning on them for this project.
And then you let them lead and the collaboration would then be the best expression of a good native advertising campaign that succeeds.”
Visa Communications’ full-on native campaigns
“Visa Communications uses native advertising in two ways. One is to do a whole piece or series of pieces on the publisher’s platform distributed by the publisher.
One example of this is when President Obama engaged in a directive with China’s President Xi in 2016 for an initiative called ‘The Year of the US-China Tourism’. We supported that initiative by publishing a three-piece interactive about places to go beyond Beijing and Shanghai for travellers in the US.
Our goal in that was to support the initiative, to inspire the Quartz audience. We thought they were the right audience for this campaign. That millennial with a hot career who is travelling, perhaps innovatively, but they’re not quite chained to their desk as a Vice President yet. We thought that was the sweet spot for this particular campaign.
And we did this absolutely gorgeous series of pieces with the Quartz team that evangelize these places deeper in China that you might think of going. Harbin, for example, where they have an ice festival that lit at night in this rainbow of shades is absolutely stunning. I didn’t even know these places existed myself.
That would be an example of a full-on native campaign, start-to-finish, created by and published by the publisher.”
Visa Communications’ use of native as a distribution means
“Then other times, we use it simply tactically as a distribution means.
An example of that is that we recently we published ‘Cashless Cities’ which was a report that our public policy team commissioned from a third party. A piece about the benefits of becoming more cashless for a geography.
Our team created an interactive data visualisation that actually toggles cashlessness and aligns your city, if you’re a mayor, with similar cities so that you can see, ‘My city is just like this city. If my city went more cashless, I’d save this many billions of dollars sometimes in costs’.
We equipped our comms team members with this interactive for their media campaign and we also wanted the piece to be discovered more organically. So we just did a distribution plan with The Economist.
The Economist is now doing native ads on their pages so that this report and the interactive will be seen by a larger audience.”
Meet Stephanie Losee in Berlin this November when she is a speaker at Native Advertising DAYS 2018.
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