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Reaching digital natives with native advertising

12 Apr, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

In last week’s blog I looked at the innovative ways that publisher’s are monetising their products in the face of a shifting digital landscape. One of the most ground-breaking moves has come from Forbes Media, who opened up their content creation platform, not only to external authors but also to marketers and brands.

This idea of interweaving promotional content with both editorial and user-generated content (UGC) is central to a much larger concept gaining traction in the online advertising community; native advertising.

But what is it? One of the biggest advocates of native advertising is Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough (the agency that runs Forbes Media’s ‘Sponsored Stories’). When asked for a definition, Greenberg offers the following:

It refers to digital ad formats that integrate more seamlessly (yet transparently) into website aesthetics, user experiences and/or editorial in ways that offer more value to both advertisers and readers. Put simply, native ads follow the format, style and voice of whatever platform they appear on.

For a more in depth discussion of Forbes’ collaboration with Sharethrough, take a look at the video below:

However, the publisher-produced sponsored posts on editorial sites is only one aspect. Native advertising seems to be an umbrella concept that encompasses a wide range of advertising formats that are now quite familiar:

What ties these seemingly disparate ad products together is one common theme: the ad’s visual design and user experience are native to the site itself, and these native ad placements are filled with quality brand content in the same format as is natural to that site.

As the web matures, advertisers are constantly challenged by how ineffective basic digital advertising techniques are on the new generation of modern web users; the so called ‘digital natives’. Phenomena such as ‘banner blindness’, where users will by default ignore the areas of a web page reserved for advertising, and statistics that show you are more likely to survive a plane crash than click a web banner, demonstrate the need for advertisers to find different ways to reach their audiences effectively.

While rich engagement campaigns that involve video content or mobile apps are good ways of earning attention, native advertising formats offer more nimble, relevant and cost effective ways to reach people in ways that do not disrupt their user experience.

It’s important to remember that native ad executions are not new. For decades brands have been integrated in unique ways into media, such as product placements in TV sponsorships or in Advertising Editorial, or ‘Advertorial’ in print publications. However, it’s only recently that digital advertisers and publishers have started to exploit similar tactics online.

For a visual explanation of the concept, take a look at Solve Media’s infographic.

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