[Video] S.A.’s leaders in Content, Native & Programmatic tell it like it is.
By Jessica Hubbard, Deputy Editor; 29 June 15
Content marketing… native advertising … programmatic media buying – are among the industry buzz phrases that, although frequently bandied about, are often misunderstood. In fact, international research reports that up to 49% of American Marketers are confused. We interviewed some of South Africa’s industry’s leaders to get clarity, as well as insights on the future of these key marketing tools and strategies.
Justin Spratt, Managing Director at Quirk Africa, defines content marketing as ‘telling a story about your brand.’
“What’s happened is that just putting advertisements and billboards and TVCs up isn’t really working anymore,” he explains. “What we’re trying to do at the moment is to craft a story…and that segues nicely into social media because social media is a great platform to tell what we call a ‘brand narrative’.”
According to Spratt, most companies usually have really great brand narratives, and are now able to tell their stories [more effectively] because of new communication mediums.
“Native advertising is for content portals and platforms, and it’s about trying to craft your advertising so that it means more to the platform,” he says. “The branding in the ad is getting a lot closer to the content in the piece… and clearly that resonates a lot more.”
Spratt notes that native advertising has been tremendously successful – citing BuzzFeed as a classic example – ‘where they are essentially crafting advertising for the story.’
“There’s bigger yields for the platform on the advertising, so more money, and the advertisers are driving more sales and more brand awareness because it is affiliated to something that is of interest,” he adds. “Native is highly crafted, almost artisanal banner ads if you like.”
Spratt emphasises that the native advertising element is ‘really the new business model for the newspaper and editorial industry.’
“They were funded by classifieds and advertisements,” he explains. “Those subscriptions have fallen off, as we know, as readers have migrated to digital, and those business models don’t work online very well. So native advertising has become a very lucrative way of funding a publishing business.”
With regards to programmatic media buying, Spratt says it is essentially trying ‘to buy online ads at scale, at the cheapest possible price.’
“It allows you to buy inventory at a market, real-time rate, so if that inventory is unsold, the publisher can lower the price until there’s a buyer,” he says. “So it’s essentially a stock market for digital ads…It’s highly efficient, usually a lot cheaper, and for the publishers it’s ok because that inventory would remain unsold – but it’s a scale play.”
According to Spratt, successfully using programmatic on the native advertising side ‘takes craft, it takes thought, and there’s usually an editorial play in native advertising when it’s done well.’
“We’re starting to see the big Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) trying to get into this native space,” he adds. “They are trying to do artisanal, at scale…my bet is that it’s not going to work well, the yields will be a lot lower if programmatic tries to get into native. I suspect they’ll do it, but I suspect they won’t get it right from a revenue point of view.”
Marketing that is devoid of any promotional execution – how does that work?
Over at Popimedia, the COO, Ryan Silberman, shed some additional light on the topic.
“Content marketing is marketing that is devoid of any promotional execution,” he explains. “So the content is really rich and engaging, and the consumer wouldn’t realise that it’s any form of advertising.”
On the other hand, he explains that native advertising is paid for, ‘so you literally pay for the media, and the objective is similar in that you are trying to make the advertising look like it’s not paid – but it really is.’ He points to Google sponsored banner ads, by way of example.
With regards to the use of programmatic, he says that he is definitely seeing an ‘uptake of programmatic in SA, and more so when it comes to native.’
“There are various [programmatic] platforms out there, some of the best-known ones are AppNexus (which is international), and there are quite a few players in the local market who use them to be able to buy ads programmatically,” he says.
The objectives are similar
Melissa Attree, Director of Content Strategy at Ogilvy CT, says that the objectives of content marketing and native advertising are ‘very similar.’
“People become confused with native advertising,” she notes. “If you think of it as traditional advertorial, it’s a paid way of getting your content out in a seamless kind of way online…”
She says that content marketing implies the creation of content as well: how are you creating that content? Where are you distributing it? And how are you distributing it?
“An advertorial or sponsored content would be native advertising…the term itself implies that the ad is seen seamlessly within the digital context,” she explains. “So you could argue that SEO posts or social media posts are a form of native advertising – they fall seamlessly into the way digital content is produced and is seen by people.”
She adds: “So with native, the key is that it has to look as similar to the editorial as possible, and is seamlessly blended into the platform.”
Attree notes that there are a lot of people creating ‘really great content’, but the problem is that nobody really sees it.
“So native is one of the ways in which we try to amplify content and drive traffic back to your site,” she says. “You could be using influencers, bloggers, sponsored stories, social, paid advertising, etc…You also have to use your organic, rented platforms if you like, as well as paid for editorial or paid for content.”
According to Attree, the third aspect is programmatic sponsored content – ‘almost like the recommendation engine that we used to see on Amazon.com’.
“We see programmatic sponsored content on a lot of the big, syndicated sites, particularly when it comes to entertainment, kind of gossipy news – they’ve been doing it for a long time,” she explains. “I think it’s a nice way for people to discover additional content – it starts bringing publishers together in terms of cross platform promotion of their content.”
She points out that one of the potential drawbacks is that this type of content can begin to lose its seamless look and feel online – and can ultimately end up looking like paid for content.
“But I think the future of the Internet and social media is based on the power of recommendations, so why not have that?” she says. “Whether it’s recommended by a computer based on keywords or recommended by a person, are two different aspects…but the fact is that programmatic is here to stay and I think it’s going to get more and more refined as we go along – which is only good for the industry as well.”
Content that is created to be uniform to the platform or site on which it appears…
Tim Withers, Head of Campaigns at ad agency World Wide Creative, explains that content marketing ‘is any content that is created for the acquisition or retention of customers.’
“It’s something that has been around for a couple of decades, it’s nothing new – it’s constantly evolving,” he notes. “For example, if you consider how integral social media is to content marketing now, whereas 5 or 6 years ago it wasn’t a factor at all.”
With regards to native advertising, Withers says that it is content ‘that is created to be uniform to the platform or site on which it appears.’
“Many people are confused between native advertising and advertorials, and in many respects, native advertising is an advertorial – but what separates it in terms of digital is that digital presents a lot of possibilities for integration,” he adds. “In order for something to be truly native, and to perform optimally, it needs to leverage off other channels…so native essentially becomes more of an ecosystem then a standalone touchpoint.”
According to Withers, native advertising thus becomes a lot more complex than just an article being published in a magazine.
“Because it is digital, you can bring other forms of content into the mix,” he explains, such as infographics, video elements, etc, and becomes more ‘layered’ than an advertorial ever could be.
He says one of his favourite examples of native advertising is what Netflix and the New York Times did for [television series] Orange Is the New Black.
“They essentially created a very well researched, very well written article on why the systems in place for men (regarding penal systems in the US) don’t suit women,” says Withers. “Women need a different approach to rehabilitation. They created a fusion of infographics, stats, and figures, and they used that to promote the following seasons of Orange Is the New Black.”
He adds: “It’s a piece of content that you read and actually get real value from – which is not something that you would commonly associate with an advertorial.”
On the local front, Withers is largely unimpressed with the executions of native advertising.
“I see examples locally (native advertising is still in its infancy here), where content is just standalone. It’s very dry, often with pictures sourced from Shutterstock [stock photography…and it’s a real missed opportunity. Digital lends itself so naturally to integration.”
He notes: “There’s a lot of room for growth [locally]. It’s unfortunate that pieces of content like that are being published and brands are actually paying for it, because the results they receive won’t be optimal. And they will obviously be less inclined to pursue native advertising again…and other brands will be less inclined to explore it as a potential marketing tool.”