Native Advertising: Leveraging Endemic Engagement By Jorge AbregoAdvertising Director of Acres U.S.A. Most everyone in marketing has heard the term “native advertising” and now marketers in agriculture need to engage themselves with how to effectively incorporate it into their marketing and communication strategy in a targeted, business-to-business environment. We’ll look at three key questions around the topic of native advertising: What exactly is native advertising?Is native advertising just a faddish buzzword, or does it offer long-term potential in regenerative ag?How do marketers effectively incorporate native advertising into their marketing tactics? What exactly is native advertising? A good working definition of native advertising is “a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.” Most often, this means that native ads are content-oriented ads placed within targeted content environments and media. But, rather than looking like standard display ads, native ads are stories and narrative building articles and/or videos that engage the audience organically, or endemically. The word content is a critical element to defining a native ad and differentiating it from traditional advertising. All advertising ultimately aims to sell a product or service, but a native ad’s immediate goal is to engage the prospective customer more so than to sell him or her something. Advertisers using native ads do so looking to boost prospective customers’ awareness and perception of their company while informing and educating, with the objective of building credibility and fomenting trust with potential customers as they move down the purchasing funnel. Remember the above definition – the native ad experience “follows the natural form and function” where it lives. So, marketers who buy native ads want to create an ad that looks and acts like the rest of that e-newsletter or website. That typically means producing a story that is hosted in a location just like any other featured editorial content. And native advertising doesn’t have to be limited to stories. In fact, companies use videos and even photo slideshows as native ads that fit very well with the rest of the content on a website and/or e-newsletter. Is native advertising just a faddish buzzword, or does it offer long-term potential in regenerative ag? Native advertising is undoubtedly a buzzword, but the concept offers real value to marketers and is becoming increasingly popular for a couple of simple reasons. It works. According to the Content Marketing Institute, native ads that have run in B2B content brands consistently since 2016 have produced the highest click-through rates within industry e-newsletters or websites and the audience spends nearly as much time on the native ad pages as they do on pages featuring editorial content. In fact, our audience of Acres U.S.A. e-newsletter subscribers have clicked through on native advertising at nearly twice the rate of banner advertising and as high as the editorial content.Audiences are always looking for new information to help them run their business better, and well-executed native ads that offer valuable information consistently produce strong metrics. (By comparison, poorly constructed native ads that are little more than not-so-subtle product pushes don’t fool many people and yield little engagement.)Native ads deliver continued exposure in this age of display advertising disruption. The shift to mobile (very real in our market – roughly 40% of the sessions) combined with the increase of intrusive digital advertising demands ad formats that help marketers deliver their message to prospective customers in a more endemically engaging manner. Native ads do that. How do marketers effectively incorporate native advertising into their marketing tactics? First off, just get started. Part of digital media’s beauty is the ability to experiment with something, measure the results, adapt and try again. This is true for native advertising too. Getting started means learning about the native ad offerings from your key media partners. A forward-thinking media outlet can be your best resource, even if they’re tweaking it as they learn what works best for their clients. From there, start the process of thinking through what aspects of your product/solution needs to be explained and broken down for farmers to use effectively and how your core ingredient or inherent substance (not your brand) fits into a comprehensive regenerative farming strategy. What key knowledge and insight can you share that would truly interest that audience? How can you help your audience better understand why key substances, technolgies and processes have been proven to be effective? Bring data and research that enables the practical application of a particular aspect of soil and plant health, farm management or resource stewardship. Keep in mind that prospects aren’t likely going online hunting for information about your product. They’re looking for solutions to problems! If you don’t have the bandwidth or expertise for creating content, find a partner who can provide you as much or as little help as you need to produce content you own and can use on your website (highly recommended for increased organic traffic) and that can be repurposed by tweaking or updating for dissemination in various forms. Next, get a native ad buy in place and see how well it performs for you, remembering that native ads are often evaluated with different metrics than traditional digital ads. Although they can, native ads aren’t likely to drive traffic to your website, so you’ll be more interested in engagement measured by click-through rates, the number of page views produced by each native ad page on the media partner’s website and the average time spent on those pages by the audience. As noted above, we think native advertising holds great promise for marketers who appreciate the importance of digital marketing and are willing to learn something new, because farmers are always willing to learn something new. Learn more about advertising opportunities with Acres U.S.A. here. Jorge Abrego is the Advertising Director for Acres U.S.A.and has 26 years of advertising agency and B2B media experience in the agriculture, energy and technology sectors.