Rising above the listicle: What makes a good native ad

One of the categories of the upcoming Digiday Content Marketing Awards will honor the year’s best publishing native-advertising program. The deadline to enter is this Friday, which gives entrants plenty of time to ponder what they think makes for effective native ads.

We asked presenters from our upcoming Digiday Publishing Summit to weigh in — and point to out a few of the year’s better efforts. Check out their responses below; then submit your own best efforts to our 2014 Content Marketing Awards.

Lynda Hammes, publisher, Foreign Affairs
Critics of native advertising focus on the clarity and labeling of the native advertising within the context of editorial content. While that’s an important consideration, I think the effectiveness of native advertising actually relies on the substance and quality of the content presented. The scourge of listicle headlines that promise “amazing” things that “you won’t believe” are my least favorite model out there. Whereas, GE’s “Roadshow” campaign in partnership with Slate offered a list post that truly delivered on “13 game-changing innovations for 2013,” that I actually learned something from.

Mike McAvoy, president, The Onion
The ad should be created with the same craftsmanship as the editorial content that surrounds it. So how we approach our native-ad campaigns is to make sure the same creative minds that produce our award-winning content are executing these ideas, so the voice and attitude falls in line with what our audience expects. It’s hard to pick a best or worst. That said, the Atlantic’s Scientology sponsored post drew significant negative attention, but we loved it, and two days later we were able to partner with a new native-ad customer.

David Cho, publisher, Grantland
Creating content that is organic to what the site’s mission is and, ideally, is content that the site was planning on pursuing already that reaches the audience that the brand is trying to reach. BuzzFeed and The Awl both do a good job of it in very different ways.

Julie Hansen, president and COO, Business Insider
Native ads need to be laser-focused on the user, offering content they genuinely want to consume — whether it’s around shared passions or interests, information they need to do their jobs, or something they are motivated to share because it strikes a chord. Other marketers could learn from what SAP has done with native ads that feature content that’s high quality and relevant to the conversations being had by its target audience rather than features-and-benefits focused.

Larry Kramer, president and publisher, USA TODAY
It’s all about the reader. If native advertising is resulting in something the reader wants to read, it is doing its job. The reader understands the difference between native advertising and journalism, but in today’s world they see value in both. Just as a customer would ask a salesperson what model TV to buy and give some value to that answer, a reader would read an opinion from someone with bias as long as that bias known. If native advertising joins the debate on issues the news organization deals with, it can be very beneficial.

Mike Perlis, president and CEO, Forbes Media
Effective native advertising is a program that shares insights, educates, provides domain expertise or offers solutions to problems as opposed to selling or promoting a product or service. The program should be transparently labeled so that the source of the content is clear, and the content should be relevant to the audience that consumes it. By jumping on timely trends, leveraging compelling headlines, and, above all, delivering substantive, informative content, native advertising can be very successful.

Image via Shutterstock

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