Native advertising“Native advertising is not content marketing,” said Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) last year. His argument was that native advertising couldn’t be content marketing because it comprises brands paying for the privilege of hosting their content on an external platform.

However, BBC StoryWorks suggests that native advertising can sit comfortably under the umbrella of content marketing. After all, it still consists of providing valuable, relevant content to your target audience – it just so happens to be placed somewhere else than your website.

While the content marketing arm of BBC Advertising doesn’t explicitly make the case that native advertising is content marketing, it certainly speaks about it in those terms.

Here’s what Richard Pattinson SVP Content, BBC Advertising and head of BBC StoryWorks, had to say: “In a time when advertisers’ are increasing their spending on content-led marketing, it is important that they also feel confident in its effectiveness and understand the significant positive impact this kind of content has on their brand.

“We believe that this study will enhance advertisers’ understanding and confidence in these campaigns, and in the value of high quality content marketing delivered in premium environments.”

Pattinson was commenting on findings from a BBC StoryWorks survey. The results of the study, entitled ‘The Science of Engagement‘, proved pretty interesting from a content marketing point of view.

BBC StoryWorks teamed up with facial coding experts CrowdEmotion for the purpose of the study, allowing it to measure traditional performance metrics alongside the measurement of both conscious and subconscious consumer reaction to branded content.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Exposure to content-led marketing can significantly improve consumers’ positivity towards the advertising brands (with a +77% increase in explicit positivity between pre and post exposure).
  • Exposure to branded content can also lead to a 14% increase in subconscious positivity.
  • Some 64% of respondents said they were happy to read branded content as long as it’s clear who’s written the content.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the 5,000+ digital consumers questioned said that they would happily read branded content as long as it matched the quality of the provider’s editorial content.
  • When presented with a piece of branded content, 59% found the content informative, 55% found it interesting and 57% said they would share it.

Pattinson said that utilising emotional recognition techniques affirmed whatwe all suspected about content marketing: “BBC StoryWorks has used the innovative facial coding methods offered by CrowdEmotion to prove that when made transparent and properly executed, brands can use content marketing to heighten emotional engagement and enhance brand perceptions with consumers.”

For those firms that are yet to go all-in on content marketing, the BBC StoryWorks findings might just act as the confirmation they sought to change tack, especially Pattinson’s conclusion that content can “heighten emotional engagement and enhance brand perceptions”.

Meanwhile, for those that were already convinced that content marketing is the way forward, the BBC StoryWorks study have yielded five general principles to live by when creating content. They are:

  1. Be transparent and educate your users
  2. Match the editorial quality
  3. Be clear what your content is trying to achieve and how emotional engagement can support that
  4. Integrating the brand within the narrative will work harder for the brand
  5. Placing in a premium environment will give your content credibility and allow it to flourish

So, does that prove that native advertising can also be classified as content marketing? Whilst we don’t make a habit of disagreeing with CMI, there is an argument that native advertising is not a separate discipline from content marketing. That is if the primary goal is to build trust over the long term by providing relevant, useful information, as opposed to selling a product or service.

As long as you maintain an authentic tone for native advertising, we’d advocate paid-for content as part of your content marketing strategy. However, if you veer towards a salesy tone, its impact can prove fairly limited – today’s consumers are taken aback when they read content that dictates they MUST buy a product or service, if the message is coming from the brand itself.

Where do you sit on the native advertising vs content marketing debate?