Shared values, trust and mutual attraction – the native marriage
When the editor and the advertiser meet at the new altar of perfect promotion, native media content, there is much more involved than a simple financial contract priced somewhere between free and rate card.
For a start, unless this relationship is based on sound shared values then the future is likely to be a rocky road for both parties, where warm embrace becomes aggressive and adversarial stand-off. In the case of native advertising the most important shared value is that of being totally committed to delivering value to the target audience. Often there is some confusion on what that actually means, with the editorial stance being purist and beyond the taint of commercial influence; while the advertiser wants to ultimately sell stuff to the audience who engage with that media because they tend to be interested in the sort of stuff the advertiser wants to sell.
The reality, of course, is that both partners in this marriage desperately need each other. The success of new media outlets, whether magazines, social media or other online publishers, ultimately depends on their ability to attract advertising revenue. For advertisers they will always need opportunities to talk to their markets and, if the market changes the media that it looks at or develops a preference for a new social meeting place, the advertiser must ensure they are there.
It’s this mutual dependency that dictates the need for a deep level of trust. The advertiser must not try to con the audience so carefully gathered by the editorial, perhaps taking the opportunity to make rapid bucks from a readership lulled into a false sense of security by the native advertorial style. Such a move would be the native advertising equivalent of infidelity and the relationship would be devalued if not destroyed completely.
The responsibility of the editorial team is to ensure that the unsponsored core offer is of the highest quality; native advertising does not mean that the editor can sit back and leave the provision of value to the advertiser. Perhaps the key challenge for the media is to maintain a very clear mission and unambiguous statement of why it exists; that then defines content and audience and allows the advertiser to craft content that will appeal. If the editorial content starts to veer in strange directions, perhaps driven by a need for higher numbers or too much leeway given to individual editors; then native advertising simply becomes advertising.
The real cement that holds this marriage together though will always be mutual attraction. The native content must be as interesting, attractive and well-crafted to the audience as anything produced from the editorial office. The advertiser gains credibility by showing that building a relationship with the editor’s ‘family’ is more important than jamming a foot in the door and starting the hard sell; that takes confidence in the brands they represent and respect for the market they serve.
Consumers love a successful celebrity marriage and native advertising will inevitable produce a good number of those.