“Banner ads don’t work!”

In the online marketing world, we hear this over and over, and let’s face it: for the most part, it’s true. And it’s becoming more and more true each and every year. Readers frequently ignore banner ads, sometimes unconsciously.

Most readers prefer content to traditional advertising, but even with content marketing there’s a problem: We are deluged with content and much of it gets completely ignored by its intended audience.

So online marketers are left with a dilemma because banner ads are very ineffective and content marketing (even when executed correctly) is often completely ignored.

So what’s a marketer to do?

Enter: Native Advertising

Native advertising is an (arguably) new form of paid media that has been shown to be very effective as a way to give content a boost. Indeed, it’s a tool that can make your content stand out in a big, bold way.

We hear this term thrown around a lot these days, but what exactly is native advertising? Sharethrough’s official definition states that “Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.”

The Benefits

“It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement, and the more it looks like an editorial, the more readers stop, look and read. Therefore, study the graphics used by editors and imitate them. Study the graphics used in advertisements, and avoid them.”

– David Ogilvy, 1956

This definition of native advertising hints at one of the reasons it is so effective: it doesn’t look or feel like traditional advertising. It’s been said that “People love to buy, but hate to be sold.” Traditional online advertising is, in the viewer’s mind, a hint that they are about to be sold to.

And it’s viewed as an unwelcome interruption of the reason the reader is on the page to begin with—to be entertained, informed or to find a solution to a specific problem.

Native advertising done well doesn’t feel like advertising. The viewer doesn’t see it as an interruption of their visit to a webpage; they view it as a natural extension of their visit.

Therefore, native advertising can yield a lot more clicks than banner ads, and it can help get your content noticed in a big way. Moreover, native advertising has higher consumer engagement rates and can give brands a considerable boost.

Even Facebook newsfeed sponsored ads have been shown to have a clickthrough rate 49 times higher than the social media platform’s traditional side-right ads.

There are no shortage of potential benefits for marketers who choose to employ native advertising, but you need to do it right. Here are some tips that will help you.

Best Practices

Even though native ads can be quite effective, you still need to follow the proven, time-tested rules of content marketing and copywriting, including the use of persuasive titles. To get your ad noticed and to entice readers to click through, craft a compelling title that generates curiosity in the reader’s mind and hints at one or more very juicy benefits.

Don’t use your native ad to sell right off the bat, especially in social media channels. Make sure your native advertising content has value for your readers, even if they never buy your product. Remember, the ultimate goal of your native ad is to lead to a sale or some action from the reader.

After you have delivered great value through your native ad content, have a call to action that leads to a landing page and do your selling there—whether it’s an eCommerce purchase, trying to win new downloads of your white paper, gaining new email subscribers or some other benefit to your marketing goals.

In native advertisements it’s important that you write to your target audience in a way that appeals to them using the language and vernacular they use. Choose to publish native content in the media your audience is likely to frequent. For example, don’t post native content about health and physical fitness on LinkedIn, and don’t post a native ad about industrial steam valves on Instagram.

Native advertising can be a wonderful addition to your content marketing toolbox. But as is the case with other great online marketing tools like video, email and social media, it is not a magic bullet. By itself, it won’t bring you the marketing success you desire. But used in the right situations with a smart strategy behind it, native advertising can give your content marketing efforts a powerful boost.