Native advertising was supposed to be marketers’ answer to banner blindness by creating ads that consumers would want to read and share. But by the time a native ad gets through all the necessary approvals and is shaped in a way that can scale, the result is often evergreen — and bland.
But a handful of publishers are trying to create native ads that play off the news cycle, betting that the more timely the post is, the better its chances of being read and shared. There are limitations: It is labor-intensive and hard to scale. “You really have to be resourced and in a philosophical place to be able to respond in a timely enough manner to play in the news cycle,” said Mark Howard, CRO of Forbes.
And as the history of real-time marketing disasters show, marketers have to know when it’s appropriate for their brand to weigh in. “The mistake a lot of content marketers make is creating content that is outside of what would be acceptable for that brand,” said Todd Sawicki, CEO of Zemanta, a native ad platform. “The problem is assuming that every event or news cycle needs a comment.” And newsy native ads may be suited to top-of-the-funnel messages, but more brands are moving to classic brand-tracking metrics to evaluate the success of their native ads.
So with the caveat that not all brands can pull it off, here’s how four publishers are marrying native and the news.
Bloomberg Media Group
The financial publisher wanted the quality of its native ads to be as good as editorial content, if not better. “It’s always a challenge to think about how we can engage people in native content, working against the sponsored content slug,” said Zazie Lucke, head of global marketing at Bloomberg Media. “It has to meet the bar of editorial, and it has to be engaging, and in some cases it has to be even more engaging to get over the hump of being sponsored content.”
So Bloomberg came up with a product called Riding the News late last year that would respond to breaking news. Dedicated content and data employees pull trending topics in the advertiser’s industry and meet frequently with the client to act quickly on the news. For an asset-management company doing business in Japan, for example, Bloomberg responded to Japan’s quantitative easing announcement with a story within a week that juxtaposed that country’s experience with that of the U.S. (Bloomberg said it wouldn’t name the client because it didn’t have approval to do so.