Everyone fast forwards thru advertising, thank you tivo for inventing the commercial skip. We thumb through a magazine or newspaper (whats that?) to get the real content – to read the stories. And we do the same thing online, every website since the 90s has looked the same, until recently, but I’ll get to that in a minute. At the edges of every site are banner ads – the leaderboard a the top, rectangle and/or large rectangle to the right of the page content.  And because every site used this same basic structure, we became conditioned to quickly scroll down the page to the real content, and ignore the right side of the page(s) because it is full of useless ads, offering products and services that take the readers attention away from the content they are looking to discover on the site anyway. 50% off, free shipping, wait a second, is that the same ad for Zappos again, blah, blah, blah. I’m trying to read something compelling in the 5 mins  I have to myself today, they cry out. And don’t get me started on the digital video world – forced to watch the TV spots TiVo so rightfully enabled us to skip are repurposed for online use, only now the video ad, aka pre-roll is longer than the actual video content you wanted to watch. But I’ll save that for another diatribe.

What if you could offer your audience something they actually liked, something that you knew a lot about and something that offered value?

So get back to the basics of what you are trying to do with advertising – sell stuff. How are you going to do that – at the core of advertising we are trying to entertain, educate or inspire the audience into taking action (aka buy stuff). If you can offer something of value, speak from a place of authenticity and authority, its human nature to be compelled to reciprocate.

Take a hard look at where you are advertising. Not just the sites where you run but where on those sites are the ads. The reason you have a laughable CTR is because you are accepting suckage as a benchmark. No one is clicking on your ads. They are doing exactly what you do when you are online, ignoring anything on the top of the site and/or to the right. Is it the location of the ads? Is it the ads themselves?  These things also lend themselves to the topics of fraud and cookie stuffing, viewability and even adblocking. But for today’s thoughts, let’s stick to location and content.

In the world of publishing, for years, ad sales teams would try to persuade the editorial team to write a little something about their advertisers. To put them in a positive light so readers would think, rather would consider something differently about the brand. Historically editorial teams would raise their fists in a fit a rage, church and state they’d say, the editorial is based on research, facts, fact-checking and journalistic integrity. All things an advertiser doesn’t necessarily think about when trying to sell something. But today things are different; the REI catalog offers articles that tell of tales of adventure. Why do they do this? So their readers will identify with the hero in the story, who happens to be wearing REI clothes, which therefore makes it so that if you buy  REI clothes, you too can be a hero. Get it. But its not just happened with catalogs, its happening online, advertisers are becoming publishers. My favorite example is eBay, Have you seen the publisher-like content on eBay lately? They get it. People will spend more time on their site when there’s content beyond the auctioned off used ski parka from the garage cleanout.

I mentioned earlier, until recently , pretty much every site has looked the same.  That is until, Facebook’s introduction to the in-feed ad. This new design put the “ad” front and center of the reader as they were catching up with their friends and family. It was impossible not to see the ads.  And because Facebook was using your profile data to target the ads to you, more often than not, users were interested, at least according to their profile information, in the ads. The revenues from these new ads were public knowledge and it wasn’t long before other publishers were redesigning their sites to include an in-feed ad format. And this was just the beginning of publisher’s opening up various “editorial” areas on their sites to offer new inventory slots of advertisers. Turns out when you have ads that look and feel like editorial, with compelling headlines versus a brand logo,  it allows the reader the opportunity to decide, just like with any other headline, whether they want to find out more. And guess what brands? You have “stories” to tell, so tell them, inspire, entertain and educate your audiences into action.

You don’t need a top 10 list or a cat video to run a successful native campaign. You don’t even need to have a robust content distribution strategy to achieve campaign goals.
All you need are 2 key ingredients – the ad and a landing page. Where should you drive the audience? That’s easy, there are 3 kinds of content types; 1st party content, 3rd party content and custom content. And pretty much every brands has each one of these. Let’s break it down; you can look in the mirror in many cases, what are you already doing via email, company videos on youtube, on your company blog or on social media?  But let’s say you don’t like that content, have there been any interviews either on TV , in print or online that can be reused to spread the good word about your brand? And what about all the time, money, energy, and efforts that went into the publisher’s direct buy or custom content piece or sponsorship you did and plan to do? These are all great examples of content that can be used effectively in a native ad campaign.

What about metrics? What if you could look to other metrics, besides CTR to prove consumer interest? Look at post-click metrics — on-site metrics, like time spent and pages views and what if you could optimize to these metrics to create a meaningful campaign for your brand.

So how do you not suck at native advertising, you test and you optimize? Test different kinds of content, test different kinds of headlines, test your imagery. Every marketer knows about A/B testing, Native is the opportunity to A/B test on steroids.