Native Advertising Is Making Media Brands Count for More, Not Less

The Media World Is Going ‘Native’ and That’s Good News for All of Us

By:    Published in : May 29, 2013


You’ve no doubt heard the term “native advertising” in the past few months — possibly far too often for your taste.

Internet Week, most recently, teemed with native-ad mania; I counted at least half a dozen panels entirely devoted to the subject last week in New York. Some pundits are heralding native advertising as the commercial savior of social media and mobile advertising, while others make the (related) claim that native ads will mean the death of the banner. BuzzFeed’s president and COO boldly declared that “Native advertising is going to be the only advertising.” …. All this when few can actually event agree on the definition.

I personally like the description, from Sharethrough CEO Dan Greenberg, of “ad strategies that allow brands to promote and weave their custom content into the endemic experience of a website or app.”

Native ads differ from traditional ad formats by adopting the visual design and content feel of a publisher’s site or technology. Examples include Facebook’s sponsored stories, Twitter’s promoted tweets and of course BuzzFeed’s sponsored posts (in which BuzzFeed now offers a program to train agencies).

But I would not limit it to digital media. Broadcasters have been effectively doing something similar for brands. Take for instance ESPN’s play for Coors Light, working its “Cold Hard Facts” into game coverage. Radio has helped deliver very localized forms of content to national brands. And advertorials and sponsored sections within magazines and newspapers have always been an option for brands.

Does that mean the media business is trying to affix a new label onto an old idea? Perhaps some may be, but overall I’m seeing some fresh views of how the media, marketers and agencies are choosing to evolve the business. Existing media are challenging long-held, idealistic lines between editorial and advertising. Emerging media are inventing new forms of brand messaging. Whatever label you want to use, I very much like the idea of native advertising and where it potentially is taking our business.  Here’s why:

Marketers will truly have to think about putting consumers first. 
The premise of native advertising is for brands to lead with content. To succeed, marketers need to develop content that consumers actually want to see in the context of the environment where they find it.

The most successful example of native advertising is Google Adwords. Consumers recognize it as advertising but respond to it because it’s useful to them in the context of what they’re searching right then. Native advertising starts with the question, “Why are consumers spending time here, and what can we do to engage them in this place and time with our brand?” That’s in stark contrast to the pure advertiser-driven model of putting the brand first and pushing it at them.

Media brands are going to count for more.
Forbes BrandVoice works for advertisers because of the equity that Forbes has established with its audience. The location within and the print edition lends credibility to companies that participate in this program — but only so far as Forbes’ credibility remains. Intelligent consumers also know that Forbes won’t want to damage the trust in their brand.

This approach is valuable to the media brands looking to distinguish their offering and value and that fear they are being commoditized in a marketplace where real-time bidding on ad inventory and automated ad networks are growing.

Native advertising is generating innovative ways for brands to partner with media.
When American Express partnered with Twitter, it looked to identify areas where the brand and the medium might marry. The result was Amex Sync, where card members could get products and special offers with their synced American Express Card by tweeting special hashtags. (Amex is a Mindshare client, but we didn’t handle this specific program with Amex Sync.)

Native advertising is helping drive adaptive marketing. 
I’ve written on numerous occasions here about adaptive marketing, where marketers respond rapidly to events. AOL’s Huffington Post development of its Newsroom product is a great example of how native advertising can facilitate this. In case you missed this, the Huffington Post is allowing brands to tap into topical and relevant news content that breaks, by developing related native brand messaging and posting it on the site’s home page within two hours.

The ad industry has successfully built a business out of being highly creative with a handful of standard formats … the 30 second spot, the full page print ad, the 10×20 billboard. Native advertising challenges us all to be as creative in thinking outside of those boxes.

If you have any examples of great native advertising, feel free to share them in the comments box below.

Antony Young is CEO of Mindshare North America, a WPP strategy and media investment agency. He recently wrote “Brand Media Strategy,” a Palgrave MacMillan and Advertising Age publication offering strategies on communications planning in the Google and Facebook era.

Let’s Not Write-Off Facebook Just Yet

By Antony Young, CEO Mindshare North America

They say that a week is a long time in our business, and surely the folks at Facebook would agree.

The overwhelming media darling for the past few years saw its IPO become a catalyst for the press, and every other news channels to turn on the social media network.  I guess the largest IPO in history was either going to go one of two ways with them.  As a journalist once told me, to the news media, a plane that crashes is a much better story than one that takes off!

Mark Zuckerberg strikes me as being quite different than most other digital entrepreneurs.  He never particularly chased the limelight.  In fact the notoriously media-shy executive was relentless sort out by the media.  He never seemed in a hurry to sell to advertisers.  Until recently we mostly pursued him.  And it would seem that the necessity to go public came more from the desire by the money men and the large number of employees looking to realize value for their stock.

So what does a disappointing IPO and disgruntled investors mean for Facebook and the advertising and media community?

Nothing.  Facebook is no different this month than it was last month.

It is a powerful, ubiquitous venue for social interaction by consumers … about half a billion exchanging or viewing content every day.

It remains an interesting platform for brands.  I’m not sure if we have yet figured out its full potential just yet or indeed how to monetize or measure it satisfactorily.

It has become a venue for advertising with some rich and fairly unique insight into their users profile, interests and behavior.

A flawed IPO and fledging stock price doesn’t really change that.

Those of us that recall the great dot com stumble in 2000 will remember that while catastrophic for many investors really didn’t impact the underlining development and growth in the Internet as a channel and a marketing medium.

But here’s what I fear…

The overwhelming attention by Wall Street and now its public shareholders to its quarterly earnings, cause their management to lose its focus.   The ad community isn’t going to spend more just because they need to hit their numbers.  Continue to work with us to find the models, listen and by all means sell.  The dollars will come because it makes sense to marketers when it delivers an ROI that we can justify on our timetable.  Stay the course.  I worry that expectations at this point seem unsubstantially high and that they could quickly lose patience and prompt them into making rash decisions.

Here’s what I hope for from them …

They use the cash well.  Acquiring new companies, new technologies; and entering new venues is going to be what is going to define Facebook Inc. in the future.

When one looks at its peer companies … Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo! Their stock valuation and performance as media companies has been defined as much by their new businesses as their core business model.

Google for example, bought the companies or technologies behind YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Chrome, Adsense, Android, Google Books, Google TV, Google+ and Google Wallet.  They are now much more than a search engine/Adwords business.

I don’t plan to invest in Facebook stock anytime soon.  But what is more important to Facebook is if they can get me and the rest of the marketer community investing in their products.

Adaptive Marketing … How Brands Can Use Data to Personalize and Market Themselves

Google took a lot of heat last month when it announced its decision to incorporate personal data into its search results. The “Don’t Be Evil” people were vilified by commentators and competitors. But its move was just another step in a shift by many marketers toward more actively tracking and responding to consumers.

Amazon gives shoppers personalized recommendations. Nike lets runners customize their trainers via Nike ID. Coca-Cola has introduced Freestyle vending machines, which enable patrons to create their own beverage by mixing together existing Coke products and then sharing their favorite creations with their friends via Facebook.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable providing their information with companies they know will use it to help personalize their products and communications, or companies providing essential services such as insurance. According to a recent study in the U.K., 75% of consumers that have an existing relationship with a company are happy to share their information with it, while 62% would share their information with a company selling products or services they need.

At Mindshare we have a name for this accelerated data-driven and consumer-focused mentality:adaptive marketing. It’s an approach that enables marketers to truly tailor their activities in rapid and unparalleled ways to meet their customers’ interests and needs based on data. It’s not just about advertising, but adapting every part of the marketing mix as well as the product itself to connect more consumers with the brand, make it more relevant to everyone and deliver more benefits.

Why is this the most exciting development in marketing in decades?

Adaptive marketing allows you to create more personalized brands, thereby eliminating commoditization. Adaptive marketing rips apart the concept of “the consumer,” a label that marketers have used to conveniently aggregate a picture of who they are trying to sell to. It assumes a classic model of mass-production, mass-appeal products promoted in mass media. The problem with this model is that it speaks to the most basic of needs, resulting in lowest common denominator marketing. This drives brands towards commodification, resulting in downward pressure on pricing… every marketer’s doomsday scenario.

You can personalize your Kleenex box.

You can personalize your Kleenex box.

KLM lets you link your network with your seat.

KLM lets you link your network with your seat.

Adaptive marketing looks to debunk that model. Personalizing a product to a customer increases its relevance and customer satisfaction, making it less likely they will want to switch brands.

Kleenex has introduced personalized packaging to great effect. M&M’s allow you to order customized candies. Dutch airline KLM has just introduced a service called “Meet & Seat” to help travelers decide who they might want to sit next to by linking your Facebook or LinkedIn profile to your flight. (Presumably, you could also use the service to decide who not to sit next to.)

Behavioral pricing is an interesting idea that’s being discussed where brands could differentiate pricing based on data collected. For example, consumers that “like” a brand could in theory conceivably be prepared to pay more. For prospects which have searched or visited a brand online, a marketer might be more willing to provide a bigger incentive to purchase.

Adaptive Marketing is about being more responsive to customers more quickly Communication is an essential part of the approach. Whirlpool responds individually to people complaints raised online about their appliances. Companies such as Starbucks and Apple for years have been crowdsourcing for new product and service ideas within communities on Twitter and Facebook.

Today’s media, technology and data provide the channels to facilitate adaptive marketing. In a way media has always been integral in steering marketing strategy. National broadcast TV helped broad branding and awareness drive advertising. Magazines create opportunities to segment the market and promote products to niche targets. The early days of the internet ushered in e-commerce marketing.

Of course direct-response agencies have preached some element of response-based marketing for years. But the coming availability of addressable TV, location-based and hyper-local media platforms, digital out-of-home and the multitude of tablet and mobile media devices is making adaptive marketing a universal brand marketing opportunity.

Becoming an adaptive marketer can require serious structural changes. The entire media process — budgeting, planning, buying, and optimizing — needs to become more fluid and “always-on” rather than static and sporadic. Brands need to develop a library of creative assets — images, calls-to-action, applications — that can instantly be deployed into advertising units when required.

Aggregating, then mining, buyer and audience data to allow personalized product development, marketing and messaging is the key to unlocking adaptive marketing gold. That’s going to be the next space race for marketers and their agencies. We hope you’re ready.

Antony Young is CEO of Mindshare North America, a WPP media strategy and investment agency. Norm Johnstonis co-global digital lead of Mindshare Worldwide.

Why Marketers Had to Be at CES

Immersion Is Worth the Trip, Says Mindshare CEO Antony Young

By:  Published in : January 18, 2012
In a world where everything at CES is blogged, posted on YouTube or tweeted, you could be excused for questioning the value of making the trek to the scrum in Las Vegas each January.

But the difference between attending CES and reading about it is like the difference between going to a football game and watching it on TV. Like a football game, actually, CES offers massive crowds, underwhelming food and good odds you’ll miss something from your limited perspective. All that said, however, nothing beats just being there.

The visibility and insight you garner from being up close to the players, sharing conversations with other knowledgeable spectators and the encounters outside the main event, in my mind, make this a “must attend” venue for marketers.

So why is CES a valuable event and what does it bring for marketers?

It’s a tech show, but really it’s about understanding how content will be consumed
CES 2012 really hammered home to me just how technology and media continue to intersect in new ways. Tablets, smartphones, notebooks, TVs and the odd internet-enabled fridge are portals to entertainment, media and social interactivity. Smart mobile devices are poised to become the lead media consumption platform sooner or later. With a truckload of smarter, interconnected, smaller and cheaper mobile devices being showcased at CES, consumers will expect content to be smarter, on the go and 24/7. This is disrupting the way marketers have to think about creating and distributing marketing content.

But consumers are also going to be seeking free content to make the most of their new devices’ capabilities. I predict this will be the biggest opportunity for marketers in 2012.

There’s value in getting wet
Across their busy work schedules, marketers have been accustomed to getting information in drips: The odd article off a news feed, a chance meeting or visit by a vendor, a one-off panel at a conference or a half-year agency update on the latest media trends. Information comes dribbling in like a leaky tap. But CES is like standing under a high-pressure shower head that immediately gets you totally soaked. That’s when you really start to immerse in the media world and think more about taking action instead of being a spectator.

Speed dating … CES style 
It’s what happens outside the exhibit halls that really adds value to the week. The likes of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and Twitter were all in attendance again this year, bringing their top execs to town. The clients that chose to attend the conference got to hear firsthand the latest offerings in a Silicon Valley-meets-upfronts-style event. I was impressed with AOL’s Huffpo HD, its venture into online social TV, a fresh alternative to a tired television model in need of updating. There were plenty of sidebar conversations that offered more individual and specific conversations for clients’ brands.

A chance to set New Year’s resolutions
Because CES takes place in early January, it gives marketers and agencies the opportunity to jointly engage in discussions at the start of a new year and lay down some resolutions. It’s a great platform to set some big goals about how you’re going to change and embrace the shifting landscape … a potential catalyst to make one or two big ideas happen.

I’ll see you again next year.



My top ten list of top ten lists for 2011 …

This is that time of the year when everyone comes out with their top ten list of 2011.  I’m never been a great believer in re-inventing the wheel, so have curated my top ten top ten lists of 2011 … Enjoy!

1. top ten social media lessons of 2011 by Christopher Barger

Part 1  and Part 2

Lesson #7: People in social platforms not only want to feel “part of” events or phenomena, but social networks allow them to feel like they truly are part of a collective.

2. ZDNet’s 2011’s Top Ten Pirated TV Shows by Steven Vaughan-Nichols

3. Most viewed videos on YouTube

Ultimate Dog Teaser 75.8million views

4. Search Engine Watch’s Top 10 Most Significant Search & Social Marketing Stories of 2011 by Guillaume Bouchard 

#4. Facebook Becomes Biggest Site for Display Ads on Earth

5. Ecopreneurist’s top 10 green marketing campaigns by Jennifer Kaplan

#5. HSBC “No Small Change”: A highly successful campaign elevated HSBC’s environmental credentials and consolidated their environmental leadership position; it exceeded all expectations without TV or radio

6. Ad Age’s Top 10 Viral Advertising Campaigns of 2011

# 8. Google: “The Web Is What You Make of It” Agency: Google Creative Lab Launch date: May 2 Views: 21.2 million

Google’s Chrome browser is becoming its second-most successful product, behind Search. It passed Firefox and is closing in onMicrosoft‘s Internet Explorer. Google enlisted Lady Gaga, Johnny Cash (posthumously) and Justin Bieber, among others, in 11 creative executions. Some have been promoted to TV from YouTube.

7. Adweek’s Top Ten TV Commercials in 2011 by Tim Nudd

#2 CHIPOTLE • Back to the Start

8. Hubspot’s top ten marketing infographics for 2011

#3. Top Email Marketing Irritations

9. The Faster Times top ten marketing stories we’ll still be talking about in 2012 by Mat Zucker

#6. Twitter as customer service channel

10. Mashable’s top ten iPad apps by Christine Warren

What’s Mom Doing On Facebook? She’s Snacking In Her News Feed!

Mom may discourage her kids from snacking between meals, but “snacking” is mommy’s M.O. when it comes to Facebook. Two recent surveys confirmed what we’d guessed: the key to engaging the half a million+ moms who “like” us on Facebook is tasty, bite-size content morsels served up directly in their Facebook News Feed.

Moms are busy. Moms are wicked busy. An overwhelming 73% of survey respondents said that they “consume” Facebook content in quick bursts — less than 15 minutes up to 30 minutes. Seventy percent of moms use the social network primarily to keep in touch with family and friends. With an average of 100 friends in her network, Mom has to power through her news feed. As one of our moms explains, “My whole day is 10-minute bursts. I check in on Facebook before school pick ups, while making dinner, whenever I’ve get a free minute.”

Great insight into moms social media use and how to get to them by the editor and publisher of

Axe vs. Old Spice: Whose Media Plan Came Up Smelling Best?

Unilever’s Axe and Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice have played more than their fair share of one-on-one ball in recent times. Axe has delivered some irreverent and sometimes controversial campaigns over the years, while Old Spice has rejuvenated the brand to make it more relevant to a younger user. Here, we check out their form and stats across both media plans.