Last month, native advertising hit a tipping point. The Interactive Advertising Bureau created a Native Advertising Task Force to study it. And you know that in digital marketing, a trend is never really a trend until the IAB convenes a group to study it.
But the trend is much broader...both figuratively and literally.
Figuratively, because it's still unclear what native advertising isexactly.
Literally, because we can at least be certain that it's a subset of content marketing.
Not to oversimplify the differences, but content marketing is about trust and brand engagement, while native advertising is about measurement and scale. The media buyer in me loves native advertising done well, and the consumer in me loves content marketing done well (even if I notice the marketing part).
All of this is predicated on a commonsense digital-advertising proposition: sponsored content that delivers a real narrative—in the form of information, entertainment, etc.—and presented in an impactful and less intrusive format. It is, in a word, "interesting" in a way that most other forms of commercial entreaty are most often not.
Great content is never an interruption – it's immersive, engaging, and persuasive. The September issue of Vogue has more than 600 pages of ads and it shares the title of 'most-speculated' magazine cover (it's Jennifer Lawrence this year in case you were wondering). Ferociously-commercial, mesmerizing content. And advertising that is, by some definitions, native.
That's why MediaLink has championed these topics at events such as Advertising Week, where in 2011 we hosted a 2-hour session on "Brand as Content," "Content as Brand" and in 2012 "Content Chaos." Dee Salomon, SVP at MediaLink, has recently been blogging and programming conferences around the theme of "Content-Tech" which, she explains, is the emerging technology universe that is developing around the rapid growth of content marketing.
Thought leadership on the topic of content marketing is growing. A session at TechTalk in Cannes by our client partner Outbrain, stood out for its clear message: successful marketing today is less campaign oriented and more 'always on'. Brands are creating content streams that put the consumer (or participant as we are now calling her) -- not the brand-- at the center.
The message intuitively makes sense. Content will only be useful to marketers if it is read and shared. And this will only happen if it is compelling to the participant.
Activation can be a challenge to marketers.
That's why companies like Outbrain and others are going beyond evangelizing and developing deep partnerships that help organizations think about how to organize content from creation to distribution.
Content marketing highlights the point I've made in this blog before: Digital is not a strategy, it's a tool. And a tool is only useful if you know how to use it.
Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New YorkCity-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at email@example.com
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