***Carla will be one of the speakers at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October in London. Click here to book your place. Here she touches on some of the aspects she will be focusing on during her presentation at the Congress.***
Native advertising is becoming extremely popular yet remains controversial. Why is this and will you addressing this during your presentation at the FIPP World Congress?
Yes indeed. Native is certainly proving itself to be no flash-in-the-pan. This is because consumers are more disengaged from display advertising than they have ever been: our time is precious and we are less tolerant than ever of being served ads that don’t fulfill our need or desire in that moment and that, at least to some extent, doesn’t ‘feed’ us in the way that content can.
Granted, there is still a fair amount of suspicion around native and there are a whole host of reasons for that, but many of those reasons can be funneled into two main drivers: (1) not all content is created equal – some content is genuinely compelling, well-crafted and ‘feeds’ us (whether that is with information we can take away and use or with ideas and sentiments that get our hearts beating faster), while other content is just space-filling; and (2) there are different types of ‘commercial content’ (some – more ‘native’ – where the editorial team control the creation and some – less ‘native’ – where the advertiser takes back some of the control).
All types of commercial content can work well, but we need to differentiate between them for the reader/viewer and do this by labelling it clearly, because, while we might think that, provided it’s paid for it’s all pretty much the same, the reader or viewer is more discerning than that and should be respected. More about this during my session at the FIPP Congress…
You have been involved in advertising and seen the development of native advertising for some time now. Give us a short background of the work you have been doing as well as the major successes achieved at The Foundry.
I’ve worked in advertising for a couple of decades now (ouch!) and it’s been fascinating to watch because branded content has evolved through its own lifecycle – it’s grown from fairly clunky written ads (when an advertiser needs to communicate a product with complicated qualities) through to much more sophisticated multi-media partnerships where advertiser and media brand trust each other enough to work together, all the way through to extremely subtle native content where the onus is on both parties to ensure that the content is as authentic as it can possibly be.
The Foundry is a fascinating operation, because it achieves many diverse objectives. At its core, The Foundry works with brands to support them in solving strategic and creative challenges, using a powerhouse of strategists, insight and data experts and more than 400 content creators.
A solution at its simplest and most elegant could be a native content series, created by our editorial teams and distributed to a receptive audience. At its most involved it could be something along the lines of our work with our music brand NME and Reading University, where a group of students became contributors for us and created the content for NME at the Reading Festival. They then worked with the team from the NME offices to ensure that content resulted in a print special in the magazine, regular content on the website and a consistent social presence.
We’ve also been working with retail brand Matalan and ITV to create a warm and really engaging campaign that opens up a fashion conversation with fashion editors, influencers and ITVs own big names, where the content has gone out across TV, online and print.
We also support brands that have no content creation facilities of their own, but who understand that content is the best way to move their customers; part of The Foundry’s offering is focused on creating white label content for brands to run on their own sites, in their stores, on their social properties and so on.
In your opinion, what is the single most important best practice in native advertising that builds trust with consumers? Is there a golden rule?
Yes! I will be sharing some golden rules of native at the FIPP Congress. All five (I think!) rules fall under one overarching principle: Respect Is Everything! Publishers (and content creators in general) must prioritise respecting their viewers/readers: they come to you and are loyal to you because you create content that is authentic and has integrity… don’t disappoint them by treating commercial content any differently than you would editorial content.
Publishers must also treat their advertiser partners with the respect they deserve: advertisers aren’t just handing over money, they are also handing over their brand and for many, that has an identity and a positioning that has taken time and care to cement. Understand the brief and question, question, test and question before starting work. Advertisers: respect the publisher (or media owner) – they know how to create content that resonates, don’t challenge them on style; if you push your agenda too hard the content will fall flat.
Publisher and advertiser: don’t assume that once you go live your work is done and you can move on; it has only just begun. Expect responses via social channels and be prepared to participate in the conversation. Don’t go silent if the content or the subject matter isn’t well received; use it as an opportunity to start a conversation and to build a deeper relationship with your audience (hopefully your future customers). Honesty and openness are disarming and human in an industry that sometimes feels less human than it should.
There’s been a lot of talk about breaking down silos between editorial teams and advertising teams to optimise opportunities for monetisation. Some fear this and others propagate this. Do you have a best practice approach?
Church and State is dissolving – at least it is in smart, future-facing organisations. There is no need to create a gulf between editorial and advertising any longer for two reasons: (1) great native content is contingent on the content being indistinguishable from editorial content – if it isn’t, it isn’t native – the only party who can create content that is indistinguishable from editorial is … editorial! (2) If we are scrupulous about the way we label commercial content (native or otherwise) to our readers and viewers, they will be able to see at a glance what is editorial, what is native (and in the control of editorial) and what is commercial and within the control of the advertiser. We are being honest and respectful. Nobody suffers in the making of that content!
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