Native Ads & The Art of Storytelling

Native advertising is giving brands new and exciting opportunities to really engage with their desired audience. Through native ads, brands can communicate relevant content, tell a story, and snag a viewer’s interest through solid content marketing.

One challenge facing native advertising is the quality of content produced. Ad content should provide just as much value to the reader as publisher/editorial content. These in-stream ads, which blend in with the viewer’s online and contextual experience, give brands the possibility to cultivate their stories and introduce helpful, engaging, and informative content that people will readily read and share.

For example, the Washington Post has launched a sponsored content feature called WP BrandConnect. The wide range of clients using this new feature include the Association of American Railroads, Land Rover, and the Cleveland Clinic.

The Association of American Railroads has created a series of informative articles, infographics, and videos for WP BrandConnect on topics that that appeal to readers. From freight railroad safety initiatives to environmental efforts to building a smarter rail system, they piece together valuable content and use a variety of fresh delivery methods. This type of native advertising is a great example of welcoming viewers to become more aware of an industry’s contribution to society without a huge sales pitch. The AAR does a great job making a complex industry more tangible and raising audience awareness about how railroads impact our daily lives.

Another WP BrandConnect client is Cleveland Clinic, which offers native advertising related to health issues. The information they offer is approachable and easy to understand, making it attractive to readers. Seriously, their Color of Pee infographic is surprisingly fascinating and contains some humorous quips. For a society that runs to WebMD for every little thing, Cleveland Clinic does a nice job making medical information helpful and less ‘textbook’ sounding.

Land Rover’s WP BrandConnect native advertising strategy is unique because the Land Rover brand isn’t mentioned directly. Instead, they offer sponsored messages about people and products that are in the general industries of outdoor sports and adventure activities. For example, Land Rover created videos about record-breaking paddleboarder Sonya Baumstein and the work of Peter Metcalf, the CEO of Black Diamond Equipment, a leading developer of mountain climbing, mountaineering and skiing equipment. Land Rover is using native advertising to appeal to their audience by associating their brand with people and products that have credibility within a target audience. In essence, they are gaining brand awareness by aligning their image with a specific, sought-after lifestyle.

Native advertising is the new norm – and does not appear like packaged sales pitches that were familiar to previous generations. Instead, brands now have the challenge of competing for audience attention by creating original, fluid, and relevant content that is just as engaging as the editorial content bordering it.