Nov 062013
graphic courtesy of

graphic courtesy of

Earlier this week I read an excellent article from iMediaConnection. Author Antoine Boulin identified three sure ways to fail at so-called native advertising, messages that look more like editorial content than traditional advertising. Many hope this can become a much needed revenue stream for publishers.

I’ve written about native advertising, also called sponsored content. It’s not the same as the kind of content marketing I practice, but it is content designed to support business objectives. I believe Boulin’s three rules apply for broader content marketing campaigns as well.

His first commandment is don’t forget your audience. By this he means don’t present any type of advertising that is out of step with the experience you’ve traditionally provided your visitors/customers.  Translated for content marketing, this means staying true to your editorial focus. B2B content marketing campaigns should be highly targeted — focus your content on what your clients and prospects care about the most.

The second commandment is always be transparent. This one highlights most clearly the difference between native advertising and the content marketing engagements I run for clients. My clients build their own audiences through editorial excellence and targeted social media promotion, as opposed to paying an established publisher to reach their audience. It’s content, not advertising.

The sponsoring company behind the client publication is always clearly identified. Transparency is vital for both ethical and efficacy reasons. The line is often much more blurry when it comes to native advertising, and Boulin notes that if publishers don’t do better on this front the government may decide to look into possible deception of online consumers.

The final commandment is don’t forget your advertiser. The content published must logically support the central themes of the sponsoring organization. Substitute the word client for advertiser, and this rule fits perfectly into broader content marketing campaigns. Content must engage, educate and (if possible) entertain your visitors, but also must be aligned with the business objectives of the client to deliver ROI.

Makes sense right — be upfront, and keep the interests for both reader and sponsor in mind. Easier said than done when faced with the challenge of consistently publishing quality content that achieves business objectives.

I hope publishers heed these warnings and don’t kill native advertising in the cradle. In the meantime, these commandments provide a solid roadmap for broader content marketing success.



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