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'The Tonight Show' Starring: Native Advertising

Native advertising is quickly becoming an industry buzzword, but is still difficult to define, even as it becomes increasingly valuable. According to Hexagram, over 60% of publishers, brands and media companies now engage in native advertising.

This statistic can certainly be attributed to the perceived effectiveness and financial flexibility, but the driving factor behind this growth is competition.

Marketers must recognize that advertising tools are not one-size-fits-all, but rather a patchwork quilt. They must find what pieces fit together to align business goals and engage their consumers. A strategy that works for one advertiser might not work for another. Those who see the value in native need to examine their audience, along with data that proves where their audience likes to engage, how they engage, the language they use and respond to, and their digital behavior. Using this information, they can target which form of native advertising is most likely to engage their target audience.

What's interesting about native advertising is that it comes in many forms. A study by Adroit Digital showed that millennials find television advertising has the most influence over their decisions and perceptions of brands. Companies are taking similar information and running with it.

Take General Electric’s recent foray with native advertising on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” Young inventors are featured on the show during a GE-sponsored segment. Do viewers even notice they are being subjected to advertising? Or does it just feel like a natural fit?

Even though late-night TV and GE don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, it is native advertising in its purest form – advertising within a context where it seems to the viewer that it just belongs, establishing credibility and interest immediately.

If you're thinking your business won’t sponsor a segment within prominent television programming, that's fine. The main thing about native advertising is that it requires thinking outside of the box; it can have many different appearances.

Like how Gatorade used Pandora to promote its G Series products. Gatorade created a Pandora radio station for each of the three products (pre-workout, during, and post) to aid consumers in understanding why they broke down the line into three products. There were different times during workouts, just like the playlists. More than 519,000 hours of this pre-selected music was heard.

When it comes to native advertising in digital marketing, data is the most powerful tool brands have in determining how to create and execute their native strategy. Brands like GE and Gatorade are paving the way for other marketers to exercise their creativity chops and find new ways to expand their reach.

The Consumer Engagement Index in Vantage Media’s (my company's) recent white paper shows that advertising via Facebook News Feed indexed high with regard to engagement and interaction, even though targeting was broad. This shows promise that engaged users are accepting this media type as a source of qualified information.

It could also point to the effectiveness of Facebook's native advertising within its News Feed, since the ads fit with other posts. However, mobile advertising, which eMarketer suggests will have an ad spend of over $31 billion in 2014, shows very little ROI. Marketers must use this information and make their strategies align with what the data is saying.

While it’s undeniable that interest in native advertising is increasing, measurability still remains key in securing this form of advertising’s place in future campaigns. Every aspect of a native ad should be tested, and then tested again. From the headlines and imagery, to article layouts and conversion elements, all factors must be taken into consideration. 

Everything is fair game and you’ll be amazed at what impacts conversion rates. Once marketers take the time to analyze their consumers and examine how these ads have performed in the past, they’ll find the right form of native advertising to engage their consumers for an increased ROI.

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