Why Honesty Is the Key to Successful Native Advertising

By Christel Rex Laugen, Head of Benjamin Native Studio
Oct 23, 2018


What we have learned from the past year at Benjamin Native Studio is that an honest relationship with both the target audience and the advertiser will enable you to create a successful native campaign. A campaign that engages the target audience and generates value for the advertiser - every time.

We’re not just talking the ethics of native advertising with correct labelling and declaration of sponsored content. No. In a time of ‘fake news’ and trust issues with the media, honesty has to be the first tool you reach for in your native toolbox.

Here are the reasons why and how you should focus even more on building a trustworthy relationship with both the target audience and the advertiser.

The vast majority of advertisers want to be challenged in their beliefs and guided in the right direction.

How to build an honest relationship with the advertiser

If you want to put a motivational quote on the office wall, try this: "Brands that lie, will die".

This is a punchline that we have heard many times when talking about native advertising during 2018 - and for good reason.

Honesty must be considered in every aspect of a native campaign. From how you introduce the advertiser's products to the audience to how you communicate with the advertiser on the internal lines to determine if the campaign idea you've agreed on is actually the best. This goes for both the creative team and the client managers.

At our studio, we have been working on finding a way to create a more open and honest relationship with our clients and found that it can be quite difficult because it takes courage to be honest.

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But this past year has shown that the vast majority of advertisers want to be challenged in their beliefs and guided in the right direction. They want to take advantage of the fact that a native studio has the expertise and knowledge about their target audiences and what works on their media platforms – and what does not.

When we start the creative process on a new native campaign, the creative team always have to prioritize to spend time really getting to know the advertiser. What makes them unique? And what are their goals and dreams? This makes it possible to find out how we can tell an engaging, true story about the product to the target audience.

Honesty is the tool that enables you to find the sweet spot between the advertiser and the target audience in your native campaign.

Make it a good habit to step back and look at the content with critical eyes.

How to build an honest relationship with the audience

The target audience is the core of native advertising; Why tell a story, if nobody wants to listen?

The audience is constantly being bombarded with stories in their newsfeed, on social media, in their mailbox.

Think about it: They are just like you. How do you prioritize on a daily basis what to spend time on? Time is, after all, one of the most important assets you have.

Ultimately, if your audience reads a native story that disappoints them, it will put the advertiser in a negative context, and the target audience might think less of the product or advertiser. It will devalue the audiences' liking to the media platform. And ultimately, they will not come back for more.

But, honestly, sometimes we as content creators forget the very basic rules for good native advertising when the deadline is approaching and we are dealing with a demanding client.

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If we repeatedly serve half-native native stories, we dilute the concept. The audience should expect that behind the label “Advertisement” hides a story that is actually worth spending time on – every time.

Therefore. Make it a good habit to step back and look at the content with critical eyes. Honestly, does my audience think it's so interesting and relevant that they will spend time engaging in the story? And is it so good that they will come back for more? Am I telling an honest story or just trying to push products?

If, for some reason, the content of the native campaign has moved in the wrong direction, get it back on track. Your target audience deserves to be treated with original content that is relevant to them.

Don’t hide, that this is a sponsored piece of content. Clearly declare it and own it. Trust that your idea for the story is so great that it will be a must read for the target audience.

With honesty, you can find the sweet spot that enables you to create a successful native advertising campaign.

Time spend = you are on the right track!

If you succeed in creating an honest relationship with the audience, they will give you their most valuable currency. Time.

An important parameter when we measure the success of our native campaigns is time spend on content. At Benjamin Native Studio, we have advertorials on our media websites reaching time spends over 10 minutes.

Think about it…in what kind of marketing can an advertiser talk about their product for 10+ minutes for a potential buyer?

The media landscape today is so fragmented and the target groups are used to choosing as they like. That is why native advertising really provides a unique opportunity to tell brand stories that the target groups actually want to engage in.

There are many considerations to take when creating a powerful native campaign that actually gives value to both the advertiser and the target audience. But with honesty, you can find the sweet spot that enables you to create a successful native advertising campaign.

Christel Rex Laugen is Head of Benjamin Native Studio – a leading Native Agency in Denmark. Christel has a degree in marketing and management from Copenhagen Business School. Christel has been working in the digital startup environment for many years and was a Partner in the Danish leading health site Netdoktor for 10 years. Before joining Benjamin, she was a Client Service director of a digital agency in Copenhagen. Christel has always been working with native formats doing her first native campaign at Netdoktor in 2004 about cholesterol and health management for Pfizer. Christel is a very creative and always pushes her staff and Customers to think outside the box.

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