Recently Sound Alliance announced "Australia's first native advertising editor". Interesting. As was the comment on another blog pointing out that this was nothing new, even if the title was.
As digital spots and dots continue their drift towards the commoditised bottom, and publishers look to take back control of pricing for the huge volume of inventory they find they now have available, it's critical that as an industry we seek to treat integration with the same respect.
Whether you are agency-side, a client or a publisher, creating value from branded integration for both audiences and advertisers means developing a clear approach to ten key aspects:
Product: What are you actually prepared to put on the table? In my time I've seen proposals to integrate articles, calculators and product simulators (happy to), and change the name, logo or brand colours of a site (hmmm). I've been approached to integrate social pushes during a campaign (sure) and post about the same campaign multiple times a day (let's have a chat).
Brand fit: As part of the conversation about product you need to be able to make decisions based on a well-defined sense of brand fit. The clearer the articulation a publisher has of their brand and what works, the easier it is to negotiate genuine integration. It's essential to understand what people come to the site for before you can assess the potential to integrate in that environment.
Packaging: Simple to execute, easy to understand ways of presenting integration can help move campaigns quickly through concept to execution, in most cases because they are already pre-approved integration points.
Pricing: As far as I can tell there is next to no consistency across the industry. What some publishers charge for is thrown in as a value-add by others, regardless of cost recovery. My own view is that integration should never leave a publisher out of pocket, costs need to be recovered and we need to get better at valuing connections to brands and audiences at a premium.
Creative: Who is going to produce it? Whether design or copy, my preference is always to have this done by the team who knows the environment best. Yes there may be some back and forth to dial up the client presence, but it is a better experience than supplying creative which gets dialled down to meet vaguely-defined 'editorial guidelines'.
Clarity: Everyone needs to know the rules. The sales team, content producers, client, buyers or agency creative all need to point to a page and be clear on what's on offer (and what's not) and if it's different to others in the market, why? If you don't get detailed guidelines and specs to activate an integrated campaign, ask for them.
Consistency: Publishers need to be able to justify integration decisions in a way that can be easily replicated.
Accountability: We all know if people don't click you won't do it twice. So what are the success metrics? Some agreed (non-click through) metrics, relentlessly pursued by the publisher during a campaign, can be the difference between perceived success and failure.
Labelling: Publishers need to consider their own policies, and again, it is an area where consistency would be useful. Is an italicised disclaimer at the bottom enough? Should there be a separate section of a site? Do you label sponsored posts as such on social? For agencies and clients does this labelling have an impact on your sense of integration?
Data: Finally, what can you get, what can you share and how often? Page impressions are nice but demographics and path analysis are a condition of entry today.
I know a list of questions and considerations that long is enough to send any sensible advertiser running to the nearest DSP, but before you do, answer one more for me: do you want to be an interruption or part of the conversation?