14 Golden Rules for Creating Award-Winning Native Advertising

By Jenna Mescon, Editor at Native Advertising Institute
Feb 28, 2019

When native advertising is at it’s best, it captivates, it informs, it entertains and it seamlessly melds with surrounding material for a great user experience. Most importantly, though, great native advertising gets desired results.

Such was the case for the winners announced at the 2018 Native Advertising Awards. The Native Advertising Institute recently put out an ebook featuring these winning cases, complete with 14 valuable lessons we can learn from them.

These lessons, should you choose to apply them, may just be your ticket to a win in the 2019 Native Advertising Awards.

Here Are the 14 Native Advertising Lessons You Should Keep in Mind

1. Be Courageous

Brands and advertisers, studios and agencies need to be courageous enough to push the boundaries and try new things. This is not new advice, nor is it the easiest to implement in the bustle of daily life, but if your able to truly take it to heart, the results can be immense.

Take a leap of faith and trust that untraditional and creative communication strategies may, in fact, help you to obtain your goals. This is how you will stand out from the crowd and this is how the target audience will remember the brand.

2. Respect the DNA

dna-1811955_1280One of the most important things to remember when creating great native is while you’re trying to do things differently and break from the norm, it’s of the utmost importance that you stick to the DNA of the media hosting your native content, keeping the media’s target audience in mind.

This way, you stay true to the non-disruptive DNA of native advertising as well.

3. Make the brand understand

ear-2973126_1280All too often, advertisers, brands and publisher are speaking entirely different languages. Publishers assume that brands or advertisers know what they want, mistakingly believing that they don’t need to thoroughly explain objectives, at times spar, and consistently work to achieve buy-in. Unless all parties are fully vested in the vision, success is unlikely.

The key to success is having an advertiser who believes in the concepts presented and – most importantly – who understands the premise of native advertising.

4. Step away from the brand and product

parting-3245545_1280Great native advertising shouldn’t be wholly oriented around products and services. It should, Instead, focus on being of value to potential customers. Content should be geared toward increasing the knowledge of your specific target audience.

Brands should learn to take a step back and dare not to constantly use and mention themselves in their marketing.

5. Create strong and long-term commitments

people-3295555_1280Great native takes cooperation between brands and content studios. It takes time and trust. This sentiment is one that has been echoed by many award-winning studios time and time again.

With long-term commitments, you get a better understanding of what the advertiser – and the target audience – want. 

6. Longer videos work for youngsters


Less is not necessarily more, particularly if you have a younger target audience. When the content is engaging and relevant to your audience, longer-form content is not an issue. In fact, it can be appreciated.

You should build up the hype to keep the interest alive on social media.

7. Sticky CTAs can work

Using a sticky call-to-action is also not necessarily a no-go. If content and button fit well together, they can actually provide value to users and lead to a great click-through rate (CTR).

Test it, before you reject it.

8. Spend time on qualitative research


Critical to creating great native is understanding the target audience. While this is grounded in listening to the brand, even more important is investing time in qualitative research, in order to build a deep understanding of the target customer. This is critical for both creating spot-on campaigns, but also for better optimisation efforts.

If you’re a brand creating your own native campaigns, this goes for you too. You need to do qualitative research on yourself as well. You might actually be surprised.

9. Find a niche

Find your target audience, and speak directly to them. It doesn’t matter if you think the audience is too small. It’s better to serve a small audience with exactly the content they need to convert, rather than trying to create something for everyone and failing to capture anyone.

The more specific the audience and their niche is, the better the performance.

10. Go wild - visually


Stock photos are the death of good native. Audiences simply don’t engage with them. The ticket to engaging content may very well mean extra attention paid to your selected visuals.

An extreme visual language has the potential to additionally boost the campaign’s performance, so take your time to cater to visuals that will provoke, engage, or even blow the audience away.

11. Include more partners


Building partnerships with other brands is a great way to expand the reach and broaden the audience that your content is targeted at.

A good idea could be to look for local partners if a national or international brand is looking for increased brand awareness in a specific area.

12. An ongoing dialogue is key


Good communication between native studios and advertisers is critical to success. That is, there should be a mutual understanding of objectives and agreed upon deliverables and deadlines.

A good project plan is only as strong as the vitality of an ongoing dialogue about what the creatives of the content will look like, which USPs will be activated and how the campaign will be run strategically.

13. Data data data


Good data is key to great native. Data and insights will help you to understand what really interests your target audience, thereby informing future content creation and enabling the optimisation of your current content.

If you watch your campaign continuously, you can adapt your creatives on all digital platforms if they don’t perform as expected.

14. Look into the newsroom


While newsrooms and advertising efforts are generally held separate. There can be merit to some crossover. For example, archival newsroom content can add credibility and authority to your content.

Don’t be afraid to break down walls and step over the line into the newsroom – just make sure that the clear separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’ remains in place.

Ready for your submission?

With these tips in mind, your one step closer to award-winning content. Do you already have some? We’re now open for entries for the 2019 Native Advertising Awards. Send in your submission today.

Learn from award-winning cases

Download our ebook to discover and learn from the winning entries from the 2018 Native Advertising Awards.  You can get your copy of the ebook here


Story by Jenna Mescon

Jenna is an editor at Native Advertising Institute.

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