Is it Native or Bust When it Comes to Content?

Should brands jump on the native advertising trend? And if so, is it the final solution to their consumer engagement problems? At Wednesday’s NYC Content Conversations, hosted by Contently and Outbrain, some of the brightest minds in digital marketing came together on a panel to discuss just that.

David Weiner, who leads digital and social strategy for a portfolio of Pepsi brands, began the March 27 meetup with a strong argument for native advertising — the brand-produced content that runs alongside regular editorial content on sites like Buzzfeed, Gawker and The Atlantic.

“Content consumption has changed over the last couple of years,” Weiner said. “People need to understand that content is not being consumed in commercials during the local news, or newspapers and print advertising. [Native advertising] is much more cost effective than a lot of the other methods.”

Though effective, marketers shouldn’t view native advertising is not the be-all and end-all of content marketing.

“I want my consumers clawing, where’s your content?”

“I consider native advertising to be a subset of content marketing,” said Michael Fasciano, who leads content and social strategy for Digitas. “Content marketing is about preparing brands to be publishers.”

Weiner concurred that native advertising was an important steppingstone for brands in their quest to become quality publishers. “A lot of the time when you do native advertising [with a publication], you borrow their brand equity to build your own brand equity [as a content producer],” he explained.

Fasciano emphasized that the publishers you natively advertise with have to be good fits. “Are these brands rabid fans are this content? Will they share this content?” Fasciano suggested asking. “Will this audience be advocates for that content?”

“The value [of building] to the brand is almost infinite.”

To become successful content producers, brands need to change the way they think about marketing.

“What is the value we’re delivering to the consumer? That’s a really challenging question,” Fasciano said. “Marketing for so long has been driven by brand first. The question we always get asked is, ‘Isn’t the brand not showcased enough in this content?’ It’s different than creating content. When you create an ad, the brand comes first. When you create content, the value to the consumer should come first.”

Media Kitchen’s Matt Borchard added, “I want my consumers clawing, where’s your content? I read something last week and I want more. That’s a big win, if you’re a brand and people are speaking on your behalf, sharing content with other people.”

While native advertising is an important steppingstone towards content marketing success, brands can’t stop there. They need to build their own content platform and audience.

“When you create content, the value to the consumer should come first.”

“When you think of it as building versus borrowing, the value [of building] to the brand is almost infinite,” Weiner said. “You can develop and cultivate an audience that wants to engage with you and your content, be vocal and be advocate. If a brand is supplying really good content to me, I don’t care because it’s a really good piece of content. And five-seven years down the road, I can sell ads [on my platform] brands to other brands, and it no longer becomes not a $200,000 a year expense.”

If brands do want to build, however, they have to be all in.

“Ask: are you ready for this?” instructed Weiner. “You need to go all the way. If not, you need to take a step back.”

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