Going Native


When I first heard the term “native advertising,” I assumed it had to do with villagers from a Tarzan movie handing out flyers to an upcoming missionary roast. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered it merely referred to advertising that lives symbiotically with content in a digital format.


But, apparently, effective.

We’ve all known of the advertorial format for decades. It looks like content in a magazine, but is really a long-winded plug for a product or service. Most were (and are) labeled as Advertorial or something similar, so caveat emptor.

In the digital realm, native advertising can be Advertorial-like, but more often takes the form of sponsorships. I think of radio shows preceded or followed by the mention of a company. Facebook, Buzzfeed and many other sites are filled with these kinds of sponsorships.

Some native ads are a bit sneakier. These are ad messages that lurk in disguise among content of a similar nature. Here’s an example from a website with links to (mostly) user-created videos. Two rows of thumbnail photos with titles present eight options. Among them are morsels, such as a blurry group of people titled “Horrible Focus Group” (very tempting) and a mother with infant titled “The Apocalypse” (promises cute and chaotic). The last in line, seeming to be just one more in the lineup, is the photo of a hamburger resembling a Big Mac but titled mysteriously, “Mouthopia” (what might this be?) While the link is tagged below with the word, “AD,” someone in a state of Click-Thru ecstasy might not notice and then…D’oh! They’ve been duped into a McDonald’s video (an entertaining one, I must admit).

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen an even more insidious “native.” An item will show up in your page feed suspiciously tagged with names of your friends but leads to an advertiser. Bad Facebook!

Does this ad sleight of hand work? Presumably, but I’ve yet to see it quantified. Is it a good reflection on a brand? Depends on how devious the placement is, I suppose.

Personally, I like messaging that looks like an ad, talks like an ad, and is comfortable in its ad gender orientation. I’m sure native advertising is here to stay and will appear in many variations. I just wish they’d call it something else.

I still hear “native advertising” and think “Dances with McDonald’s.” I dunno.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Are Traditional Advertising Agencies Going Extinct?

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As long as there is traditional advertising in print and broadcast media, there will be agencies dedicated to creating it. However, to eschew new media is to dabble ones toes perilously deep in the tar pits.

Take Neanderthal and Stone, in business since 1965. They still club viewers with heavy TV schedules and try to light fires under readers of magazine ads and direct mail. The owner contends that there is plenty of meat to be picked from newspaper advertising and that jingles can sell anything.  But, their larger craniums allow them to engage with a brand from logo design to multimedia campaign.

Across the street is the upstart Homo Erectus Group, in business since 2009. They have discovered fire and can illuminate consumers in more targeted ways and at more opportune times. Being more social creatures, they recognize the opportunities of Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest. And they know how to turn a website from an expensive brochure into a working tool. Fascinated with how shiny their spears are, they often can’t see when the net, snare and blow to the head with a rock might be better ideas.

On the Extinct-O-Meter, Neanderthal and Stone registers as high risk due to limited tools and inability to use the wheel. They lose business because they can’t take their clients into new hunting grounds while also offering traditional fare. Homo Erectus registers Medium Risk as they can get lots and lots of project work, but many clients won’t trust them to understand the nuances of the brandscape.

One will survive and even thrive, because they occupy high ground others can’t reach. The other is already up to its occipital ridge in tar, but smart enough not to go any deeper.

But, it’s likely that the iron-working, supple-skulled executive from Homo Sapiens and Partners is going to get the biggest kills when pitch time comes around. His agency combines evolved social skills and more advanced tools with the ability to understand when and where to use them. He can hunt in all media, throw messages with the accuracy of Homo Erectus, and design them based on the ancient lore of Neanderthal and Stone.

He also smells better.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Invasion of the Facebook Robots


BusinessInsider.com recently ran a story entitled, “How Facebook is Replacing Ad Agencies with Robots.” While the ever-innovative Facebook has created a golden goose with their side bar ads, my Scoff-o-Meter pegs out at the thought of their destroying agency jobs.

For one, Facebook is social media, not the entire spectrum of media.

For two, these killer robot ads are new and never were the domain of ad agencies, ergo nobody’s losing a job over them. Teach a couple of monkeys the Facebook interface, feed them content and you have yourself a robot ad staff.

For three, the ads living in the Facebook ecosystem are very limited, direct-response ads without even the branding layer a print circular can deliver.

And, speaking of branding, I’ve yet to meet a robot that knew a thing about it. We’ve seen in study after study that with the proliferation of media and competition for consumer attention, branding is more important than ever. Good branding rarely jumps out of the brain of an in-house staffer. It comes from the informed brains of marketing specialists who’ve been down the road with a variety of businesses and have a deep understanding of markets and how the consumer interacts with them. Those specialists are called ad agencies.

Even the interactive phenomenon the Dos Equis brand created came from the mind of brand thinkers. It is still living large on Facebook, and I’m betting some talented agency people had more than a little to do with it.

New media does and will continue to challenge agencies, and we all know the rules redefine themselves daily. If you’re selling a commodity product where price is the distinguishing feature, call Facebook. If you have a service or product people need to care about before buying, call an agency.

Robots, as everyone knows, are best left to destroying planetary colonies in outer space.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions