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The Perils of Native Content


INFLUENCER: Ogilvy UK's Kathryn Pheby on the dos and don'ts of native advertising

The Perils of Native Content

Whenever I go on holiday, I always try to avoid standing out from the crowd. I’ve particularly got this down in Spain with my tried and tested combination of a naturally olive complexion, dark hair and wrapping up warmly in temperatures that would call for t-shirt weather in the UK. It works well, and more often than not, I’m addressed in Spanish. And as soon as I open my mouth to speak, the illusion ends. Faster than you can say ‘me no habla español’, I’m unmasked as the tea-swilling, roast dinner-loving Brit that I really am. It’s all very well to try and blend in, but if you don’t speak the language, it’s all just a nice façade.

I would say the same applies to companies working with publications to create native content. I was scrolling through Facebook recently when a sponsored post piqued my interest. It looked like an interesting sponsored editorial piece in a smart publication, so I clicked through. However, when I got there, it wasn’t long before I was cringing. The narrative was weak and the full product name was crudely shoved into every paragraph.

What made this piece so jarring for me? A few things…

1. It felt inauthentic. The article was meant to be an insight into someone’s life, but the constant product placement meant the whole tone was wrong. It’s hard to trust what anybody says about their lifestyle when they’re plugging something so obviously…

2. … which leads me to the next point. The marketing messages were thinly disguised. They hadn’t been adapted to suit the publication, and the one-size-fits-all approach really showed. Consumers are better informed than ever before, and won’t automatically think that a product is great because it appears in a publication that they like.

3. The article was completely at odds with the publication’s house style. I’d clicked expecting one thing, but got a piece that was nowhere near the editorial standard I’d expect. This didn’t reflect well on the brand or the publication.

Having read some of the comments on the sponsored post, I quickly saw that I wasn’t the only person feeling that way. The instant nature of social means that negative comments can come instantly. It’s a shame as the collaboration had loads of potential and was likely generating a good level of response, but fell down when readers got to the actual article.

How can brands create better native content? Remember that you’re getting clicks off the strength of the publication’s reputation, which has been built on the content they produce. Don’t waste the engagement that this brings by serving poorly fitting content when the audience gets there. The whole user journey needs to feel consistent with the publication’s ethos and standards. Otherwise, like me in Spain, you’ll blend in well, but when you fail to speak the language, you’ll give yourself away immediately.

Kathryn Pheby is a Senior Account Manager at Ogilvy UK

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Ogilvy UK, Thu, 25 Oct 2018 11:53:44 GMT